Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comcast: A Problem in Need of a Solution?

When ISPs Attack
Cable giant Comcast reportedly axed a critical segment on ABC's Nightline from its Internet video-on-demand service.

The removal of the segment raises significant doubts about cable company promises that they would never block or degrade users' choice of content on the Internet.

The segment in question features a video clip of a Comcast technician who fell asleep on a customer’s couch during a repair visit. The customer videotaped the sleeping repairman and posted the clip on the popular online video site YouTube, where it went "viral" (more than 700,000 downloads to date).

Last Friday, Nightline picked up the clip as part of a story about angry consumers who “bite back” against abusive corporations.

But the sleeping repairman went mysteriously missing from the version of Nightline that aired on Comcast’s Internet service. See for yourself:
The original Nightline segment
The Comcast Internet video version

That's not all that went AWOL. Cut from the Comcast version is more than four minutes of ABC correspondent Vicki Mabry's report — including the sleeping technician clip, a screenshot of a “Comcast Sucks” Web site, and Mabry’s finding that the cable company quietly employs people to monitor or “ghost” anti-Comcast Web sites.

The Comcast version ends just before this critical content and jumps abruptly to the next “Nightline” segment.

Was this censorship by an ISP? Not according to Comcast, which is now scrambling to defuse the controversy. The Consumerist blog, which helped break this story received a response from a Comcast spokesperson, who claimed that an ABC "encoder" had cut the segment in question -- and not Comcast.

A technical glitch that removed only negative Comcast content?? Go figure.

In recent months, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have pledged before the media never to block or degrade Internet content, in an effort to quell concerns by consumer advocates and Net Neutrality proponents. And yet here we have a case where the only segment blocked from a Comcast Internet service is the portion critical of Comcast.

Given Comcast’s high-profile stance against Net Neutrality it’s little surprise that they would try to clean up this incident before it spreads beyond the blogosphere.

The Consumerist found it odd "that Comcast would declare the ABC producer affirmatively said it was an ABC encoder problem that cause the cut. Either way you slice it, it’s certainly terribly convenient for Comcast."

Such convenience comes at a time when Comcast is desparate not to be portrayed as an Internet gatekeeper.

Last week, Comcast Vice President David Cohen wrote in a Philly Inquirer Op-Ed that “net-neutrality proponents are marching a new parade of horribles down Hypothetical Boulevard.” Cohen called “phantoms” citizens' concerns that Comcast or other ISPs would play gatekeeper to Web content. He cribbed phone and cable company lobbyist talking points writing that “Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem.”

But the Nightline incident suggests that this “problem” is more real than Comcast would like to admit.


Anonymous said...

well, it looks like comcast got to the you tube clip, too. if you click on your link above, you'll see that the clip has been removed from you tube.

Anonymous said...

We're leaving comcast, but here are the new channels they just switched. I refused to use a DTA box and comprise quality, so I had to find all the channels. I have been using them for a month now, they all work. Here are some,
History 91-009
Disney 80-005
KCTS 79-007
King 5 HD 79-005
NBC HD 79-004
ABC Family 91-005
Nick at Nite 91-006
Cartoon Network 91-007
MSNBC 92-001
TruTV 92-003
A&E 92-004
VH1 92-008
Food Network 92-010
CBC 99
E! 102-004
MTV2 102-009
MTV 103-10
SyFy 103-11
Bio 107-008
Weather 112-005
G4 112-019
Travel 116-005
CNN 116-006
TV Guide 117-004
TLC 103-002
TBS 92-006
Oxygen 103-003
Hope you can use them, I have no need for them now!!