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Government The Almighty Buck The Internet United States

Comcast Pays $800,000 To U.S. For Hiding Stand-Alone Broadband 201

First time accepted submitter vu1986 writes "The Federal Communications Commission has settled with Comcast over charges that the cable company made it hard for consumers to find stand-alone broadband packages that don't cost an arm and leg. As part of the settlement Comcast paid the U.S. Treasury $800,000 and the FCC extended the length of time Comcast had to provide such a service."
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Comcast Pays $800,000 To U.S. For Hiding Stand-Alone Broadband

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  • but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by donaggie03 ( 769758 ) <d_osmeyer@hotmail.cDEGASom minus painter> on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:30AM (#40475339)
    Does Comcast have to make it any easier for customers to find the stand alone-packages? I don't see that requirement anywhere in the summary or article ..
    • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:47AM (#40475415)

      Does Comcast have to make it any easier for customers to find the stand alone-packages? I don't see that requirement anywhere in the summary or article ..

      It's a settlement. Basically the FCC and Comcast sat down and decided that it would be... cheaper... if they simply didn't use 2 point font to describe the alternatives than to put it through the legal system and an endless appeals process. If you're a conservative, it amounts to a government agency fleecing an innocent business to support their habit of taking businesses to court to enforce arbitrary standards. If you're a liberal, then it's a way of making a monopolistic business play well with others. And if you're politically agnostic, then it's a slow news day and this just confirms your belief that people are stupid and lazy.

      • by Creepy ( 93888 )

        According to TFA, yes, they are required to advertise it at $49.95/month for a 6Mbit connection for the next 3 years, at which time they can raise prices. That is what I pay for 7Mbit DSL service with a static IP (it would be 10 in other areas, but they need to upgrade the hardware at the switching station, which I expect to happen maybe the day before never, and I get a consistent 6.2-6.3). Since Cable is slower than DSL unless they have more bandwidth (with cable I can get 20GB for about $79, and then it

      • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by C_amiga_fan ( 1960858 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @11:51AM (#40479213)

        The key word in your paragraph is "monopoly". Conservatives and libertarians have no problem with regulating a natural monopoly (water, electric) or government-granted monopoly (Comcast). As far as I am concerned the government should not only require Comcast advertise their Basic CATV and Naked-internet options, but also place a cap on how much they charge. (As is down with the electric monopoly.)

        Alternatively the state government could revoke the monopoly and open the state to any cable company that wishes to come. Bring some competition against Comcast.

    • Re:but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @06:11AM (#40476705) Homepage Journal

      I found stand alone internet from Comcast via an installer advertising in Craigslist. He listed all the different packages and costs associated with each. It was far easier than navigating the Comcast site.

      What I do not care for with Comcast is the prices on the site, even after entering your zip code, are not necessarily the prices your local Comcast office will offer. An example, I wanted basic cable to go with my internet and phone from Comcast. Calling the number on my bill resulted in an offer for basic cable for 19.95. On the website it was 12.95. Even when presented with this information the person on the phone said that was not available in my area. I went to online chat with the Comcast site via a button they had there and had the basic service installed and added to my bill at 12.95

      Well at the beginning of this year Comcast raised ALL cable TV bills by five dollars. So my 12.95 went to 17.95 a month. I called, complained, and dropped the service. Come to find out the work they did to hook up TV in the first place means I still get basic service for free as it rides on my cable internet. When they called to sell me TV again I asked them about it and they replied that cable ready TV's cannot be blocked at this time.

      Some companies are just too uncoordinated to know what they do.... so I would not ascribe their making things difficult as a policy but the result of poor management.

      • sounds like there cable card pricing

        where each area has it's own costs / fees and you can't tell based on the website.

        Some areas make you have the HD fee (or have as part of the base package)

        Some areas make you pay a outlet fee on the cable card.

        and so on.

        Read [] for more

      • I found Stand-Alone Internet from Comcast by going to their website, and selecting it as the product I wanted after plugging in my zip code and being told what products are available in my area.

        I'm a tad confused by this article to be honest. Have things changed radically in less than a year, or is Comcast being faulted for something slightly different (say, not advertising it enough or something?)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Does Comcast have to make it any easier for customers to find the stand alone-packages? I don't see that requirement anywhere in the summary or article ..

      Yes, It is in one of the paragraphs toward the end of the article.

      "Comcast didn’t admit fault as part of the settlement, but it did lay out some cash and pledge to make its cheaper stand-alone service more visible. It will train its call agents, make sure the offering is visible on its web site and it committed to a major marketing campaign around the Performance Started service for 2013."

    • they charge more for their standalone packages than their dual or triple packages.

  • Not just Comcast (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:30AM (#40475341)

    I had a bitch of a time with Time Warner trying to get them to give me broadband without the TV, phone, and other crap that's pointless to me. What's the point of making it such a pain in the ass? All it does is ensure that wherever I move next it sure as hell won't be somewhere serviced by TWC.

    • Re:Not just Comcast (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:44AM (#40475399)

      My provider likes to call me every few months and ask if i'd like their telephone service. I keep having to explain to them that me and my girlfriend are in our late twenties, we don't have a landline and we don't want one and even if my cell phone exploded in my pocket tomorrow, i'd probably just use Skype.
      Honestly I'm getting tempted to start threatening to cancel the cable too. It's something i've wanted to do for a long time, but being Canadian my options for cable-cutting are quite a bit, uh, shallower. The girlfriend likes certain sports and the occasional fit of channel surfing too (also, she's not very patient with finicky bits of technology), which just makes things even more difficult. If they keep pushing me though, I might just be tempted. The sad part is, I know no matter where I go (and there are really only 3 options where I live) i'd have to deal with the same shit.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        My provider likes to call me every few months and ask if i'd like their telephone service. I keep having to explain to them that me and my girlfriend are in our late twenties, we don't have a landline and we don't want one and even if my cell phone exploded in my pocket tomorrow, i'd probably just use Skype.

        Perhaps they are confused because you're telling them your age as if it's somehow relevant to your phone choice. I know 18 year olds with landlines and I know 60 year olds that use a cell phone exclusively.

        Though if it's your internet provider that keeps calling you (unless they also happen to be the phone company), they aren't really offering a "landline", they're just offering some VOIP service which is not nearly the same thing.

      • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:59AM (#40475473)

        Ask them "Do you offer a phone service that blocks assholes like you from calling?"

      • Re:Not just Comcast (Score:5, Informative)

        by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @03:29AM (#40476155)

        My provider likes to call me every few months and ask if i'd like their telephone service. I keep having to explain to them [..]

        Have you tried telling them that you don't want marketing calls to your number?

        National Do Not Call List: Who Can Still Call You? []:

        "If you do not want to be called by a telemarketer making an exempt call, you can ask to be put on the telemarketer's internal do not call list. Every Canadian telemarketer is required to maintain such a list and respect your wishes not to be called."

        • by Inda ( 580031 )
          We've had this in the UK for a long time. Does it work as intented in Canada?

          Over the last few years, companies have found that they can get around the problem by hiring southern Asian workers, with half a dozen 3rd parties inbetween.
      • Heh, I'm in my 50's, my phone company calls me up on the landline to try and sell me the mobile they know I don't have. Thankfully they have some manners and stopped calling when I asked them to stop.
  • Comcast rip offs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:34AM (#40475353)
    Hmm. $800,000 fine. For a company that grossed 4.4 billion last year. If this was an individual making median income (47k USD), then this would be like fining them $0.09. That'll teach them!
    • by Glarimore ( 1795666 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:36AM (#40475359)
      Not only that, the money goes the treasury -- not the customers they've been ripping off.
      • But we'll all get a small reduction in our taxes...well, the tax increase won't be quite as high...

      • Well, maybe it will be used for improving bandwidth and ultimately do more for consumers than if the money was given directly to them.


        Ah, I crack myself up sometimes.
      • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

        Of course, the amount is so miniscule that if they were to give it to subscribers, it would come out to about three and a half cents per household.

    • by Comen ( 321331 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:41AM (#40475385)

      You can not fine them too much, or they will be so scared of fines and court battles, they will hold back and not hire people, you do not want that do you?

      • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:52AM (#40475443)

        You can not fine them too much, or they will be so scared of fines and court battles, they will hold back and not hire people, you do not want that do you?

        Corporations want to be people. They should pay like people then too.

      • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:59AM (#40475469)
        That's right, it's important that we let the Job Creators get away with anything. If we strike down all of that abusive regulation holding them back, surely they will come to our rescue.

        And tax cuts, let's not forget about those - if the Job Creators only have to pay a tiny amount in taxes then the middle class will have to shoulder the burden. But that's okay because with all of the jobs and money that the Job Creators will shower down upon us, there will be plenty with which to pay the taxes.
      • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
        We also can't nationalize infrastructure like this. That would be SOCIALISM, and that's EVIL! Jesus didn't socialize the internet.
        • Thanks but no thanks. I don't want Washington DC owning the copper to my home. Good luck ever getting anything done then.

          Why can't cities own the last mile? Why is the answer always "NATIONALIZE IT!!!!" Can't smaller government entities do anything for themselves anymore? It seems one side only believes in nationalizing everything and the other believes in privatizing everything. They're both stupid.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      If you factor in that Comcast is likely to impact more people than any individual, it might be closer to a tenth of a cent fine.

      For something like this, I'd argue that fines should be proportional to impact per person per unit time. $800m would seem more reasonable, on that basis. The EU's fine on Microsoft was much closer to the figures corporations on that scale need to face before they'll pay much heed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Comcast sucks. They've been making advertisements lately where they claim people go back to them or something. They even claim that according to PCWorld they have the nation's fastest broadband.

    Not hardly. Not when our local fiber provider can drop a gig to your house.

    Of course the wannabe libertarians screamed about public money and a monopoly abusing its power.

    Lying fuckers.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    TFA says:

    price no greater than $49.95 for three years.

    Well shit. I have Comcast's cable internet service, without TV or anything else from them, and they're charging me around $70/mo.

    • Sounds like something worth at least ten, maybe fifteen bucks a month. I'd be happy to get three years for fifty bucks ...if they upgraded to fiber.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        They did upgrade to fiber, just not fiber to your house. Fiber to the house is dumb as they dont have the bandwidth back at the OTN to give you more than what the RG6 coax can give you.

        Your speed limitation is the Executives being cheap not the technology.

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      That price is for the 6 Mbps service. Considering that real-world performance never actually matches that, that service level will be suitable for web surfing and downloads, but probably inadequate for video streaming (e.g., Netflix). More likely you are in the 20 Mbps tier.
    • by colfer ( 619105 )

      Salesperson the phone told me the slower service is more expensive. That's how they work, milking the legacy customers. Beyond Comcast, web hosting works the same way. You can't even find the expensive plans people are still on when you go to the host's websites.

    • When I got Comcast a few months ago* the phone salesperson offered me 20Mbps for $29.99/month. When the bill came in, they charged $39.99. After fighting with them (and not paying the bill for 3 months), a Better Business Bureau complaint resulted in me getting the price I was offered (at least for the remainder of a year).

      * I HATE Comcast, but I had essentially no choice: neither alternative (Clear WiMax or AT&T DSL) could do better than <1Mbps in my area.

  • by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:54AM (#40475451)

    I spend $35 a month for stand-alone 12mbps. It's not great, but it's hardly an "arm or a leg". Maybe they're guilty of not advertising it, but I didn't know that was a crime.

    ... Just read it. They were ordered to advertise the service, and ordered to make it less than $49 in 2010. My costs could have been the result of Comcast half-fulfilling their requirements. But as much hate as there is for Comcast I wonder if such an overbearing micromanaging government is a good thing. Do we really need the government to save us from teh evil companies?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:58AM (#40475461)

      Yes, we do with only 2 viable options in most of the US, if you're lucky, we can't count on market forces. Ultimately, it's either settle for whatever the ISPs want to give or force them to something about it. Having watched the prices rise and the connection speed not for over a decade, I definitely think we need more government as less isn't working.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The message I got from Comcast the last time that I consider(and discussed canceling cable outright was that if I were to do so, then the cost of my broadband service would go up. (cable ~$14-$15 for the bare minimum and broadband internet @ ~$55).

      I have no real leverage in my area - no legitimately competitive providers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do we really need the government to save us from teh evil companies?

      When you have monopolies or near-monopolies like these Internet companies seem to be in certain places, the government is the only power that can rein them in and keep them from buggering you up the ass. Since it appears that there is no meaningful competition for Internet service in many parts of the United States, the government stepping in to regulate these companies is an appropriate thing for them to do. Otherwise, these monopoly compa

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      Absolutely. Corporations will ... by definition ... take everything they can get. A handful of privately owned corporations are exceptions. None of the publicly owned ones deviate from that lest they lose the institutional investors. Read my blog for more info on my political direction.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @12:59AM (#40475467)

    I had no problem finding an internet only package with Comcast and I was quite happy with their service.

    I used Comcast for internet service for 3 years and it worked great. Consistent 15 mbit service, never hit any usage caps despite being a heavy Netflix user with no cable service (I used Comcast only for internet). Only one instance of downtime in 3 years, they had a truck there within 4 hours and re terminated the connection at the pole to get me back online (the tech said it was water damage - it had been rainy and exceptionally windy - many people lost power). I considered DSL, but the local Telco could only promise "up to" 1.5mbit of bandwidth and said that due to my CO distance it might be lower.

    Now I have AT&T U-Verse (my only option) and after 2 missed install appointment (no call for either one - they just didn't show), it's been ok, but there have been 2 outages in 3 months. One lasted around 10 minutes, the other was 60 minutes but it was the middle of the night.

    If I could use Comcast again, I would.

    • If I could use Comcast again, I would.

      Bah. If I could get U-Verse, I would. There's fates worse than not being able to get comcast. Not being able to get anything wired faster than dialup, for example.

    • by colfer ( 619105 )

      They quoted me $48/month to add internet to the basic cable we already have. I guess they know people want cable over DSL. (No FiOS to compete here.)

      The salesperson really made a fuss of trying to walk me through a script, and I'm not confident he even tried to give me the best price.

    • by Comen ( 321331 )

      Let me just say this is very typical, I work for a big company that provides internet service, and it comes down to luck really, Any of these big ISP's can provide good service for a very long time with no issues, but if for some reason you have a hard to trace down issue that happens intermittently, the chances of you getting the attention it takes to solve that issue is not good. The bigger the company the smaller your problem is to them. If its something obvious that can be fixed quick you are ok, but if

    • I've never really had uptime issues w/ Comcast's service. However, roughly 5 years ago I was trying to price Comcast vs Verizon for internet-only service. The phone rep I spoke with from Comcast kept telling me that it was impossible to get cable internet w/o cable tv.
  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @01:53AM (#40475719)

    I need to make a call.

    I just haven't figured out who I need to call--the FCC or Comcast.

    When I purchased this house new, it had existing cable hookups but had never had them activated. I called Comcast and asked to have internet service activated. No problem, except that lady I spoke to automatically added cable service in the price--$69.00 a month. When I corrected her and stated that I did not want cable she stated that it was the same price anyway, with or without cable service.

    So, in effect, the stand-alone internet service was never offered. In it's place, I was offered their bundle and was forced to pay a premium to have the cable access removed if I really desired to. Obviously, since the price was the same I now have both cable and internet service when all I wanted was the broadband.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Thursday June 28, 2012 @03:32AM (#40476163) Homepage

    More and more companies are being found to have behaved badly and are fined, just today Barclays is fined £290m []. The company pays it and probably keeps going on other scams for which individuals earn large bonuses or commissions, nobody really suffers, the company just makes a little less profit that year.

    The only way of altering behaviour is to fine the individuals who are behind the scams. Only when these crooks start loosing their houses and pensions will they stop thieving. Their primary interest is themselves, not the company. Hit them where it matters to them - then, and only then, might the regulators truly find their teeth.

    • Who are you going to fine? The manager that signed off on something his bosses probably decided and delegated to him to enact? The president of the company? Maybe the union? It can be hard to find out where a decision came from when you work within a corporation. It is even harder from outside of it.

      I would argue that the problem is the fines don't fit the crime. In these business cases you always hear the same scenario. Company A does some slimy, and illegal, thing and makes 100 million dollars in profit f

  • by ClippyHater ( 638515 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @06:55AM (#40476877) Journal
    If comcast doesn't want consumers to know about the alternate packages, why make them available at all? Granite State Communications (local telco here in NH) has NO standalone internet package--if you want internet, you HAVE to have their phone.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Because there is a law that states they cant require other services to be bundled. Granite State Communications is breaking the law by requiring a phone line. They are banking on that you wont complain to the FCC About it because you are not educated in the law to know this.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @07:58AM (#40477121) Homepage

    Verizon recently sent out letters claiming that you cant have un-bundled DSL anymore and demanded I call and change my service to something that has a phone line. I refused and I still only have DSL and no phone line. I still get calls claiming that I have to convert from them.

    This is illegal, yet the FCC is not jumping on them or Frontier for pulling pretty much the exact same stunt. I am all for forcing companies to comply, but apply it across the board evenly. And no I'm not a Comcast fanboi, I worked there, I know how evil they are. But I dont like single sided enforcement.

    • Have you lodged a complaint with the FCC? If you still have the letter they sent, include a copy of that as evidence. Add in the dates of calls, and descriptions of what was said (as best as you recall.) Depending on your state's laws, you might be able to record the next call from them insisting that you have to change. The combination of the letter, and multiple calls, makes it harder for them to claim it was merely a "mistake" by the operators due to "training issues".

      Sometimes these agencies literally c

  • Not their only scam (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Even if Comcast does offer you reasonable broadband only service, they still try to get you another way. I just moved a few months back and decided to skip out on the TV service for now but I needed the broadband service for when I work from home. I went to their website about 2 weeks prior to my move to sign up for service. I was able to sign up and they made me prepay my first month's bill. During the process, the website said it was unable to select an installation appointment for me so I needed to call

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Thursday June 28, 2012 @04:14PM (#40485051) Homepage

    I was a Comcast customer for a couple of years, when Earthlink sent me a promotion to switch to their cable Internet service. Turns out it's still Comcast, just resold by Earthlink. The price is lower, and they didn't charge me an extra fee for not having Cable TV! Their price has never changed, unlike Comcast's prices, which keep going up. I even pay my bills to Comcast and get repairs by Comcast employees, the only difference is that my router's default domain name is! I've decided that going with a reseller like this is a great idea.

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.