This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.

M E D I A   U N S P U N
Comcast's blues
By Keith Dawson
15 Feb 2002


Executives at Comcast this week could be forgiven for feeling blue on black. The stock price has been sliding since December when the company began to trip over the problems of building out a large-scale ISP operation in record time. The press wasn't exactly gloating over Comcast's troubles this week, but was devoting copious ink and electrons to detailing and recounting its continuing stumbles.

Comcast used to reach its customers through the network of Excite@Home, but that carrier will go dark in another two weeks. Comcast has been racing to build out its own fibre insfastructure, and encountering in a few months all of the startup glitches that national-scale ISPs overcame 5 or 6 years ago.

The big Comcast story this week was the revelation that the company had been tracking the Web surfing moves of its customers for more than a month. The AP broke the story on Wednesday (though it had been circulating on Net mailing lists since the previous week), and all the Net outlets picked it up. The AP continued to stay ahead of the story, reporting a mere four hours later that Comcast had capitulated under an avalanche of protest, including a warning letter from Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass).

News.com outlined the problems Comcast has had in taking up Excite@Home customers, including Comcast's policy of downgrading users' connection speed at no decrease in price. Business customers and others have groused about Comcast's less liberal policy on virtual private networks. CNET's reporters did not mention the flap late last month after word surfaced that Comcast is cracking down on customers whose cable connection supports multiple computers on a local network; Slashdot's knowledgeable readers were all over that story.

The New York Times's Matt Richtel wrote today on Comcast's problems with keeping their email servers running. Richtel concluded with this unwelcome reminder: "(Comcast's problems) hark back to legal arguments made by Excite@Home when it went bankrupt. Excite@Home sought to put pressure on its cable partners... to pay more for its service, arguing that they were underestimating the difficulty and expense of operating an Internet network." Comcast gets it now, from the depths of its blues. -- Keith Dawson

Comcast Tracks Users' Web Browsing (AP)

Comcast Will Stop Tracking Users (AP)

Comcast privacy move its latest woe

Comcast Gunning for NAT Users

Another Snag for Comcast as Its E-Mail Goes Awry