Comcast Plays the Role of Scrooge this Holiday Season

by Matt Klassen on December 8, 2010

Does anyone out there like Comcast? I’m always surprised at the vehemently caustic responses I receive whenever I cover the latest news out of the cable and high-speed Internet company, as readers continue to vent about Comcast’s shoddy network service, its lacklustre products, its frustrating customer service, and strong arm bait-and-switch marketing tactics.

So with this holiday season upon us, one might think that all this bad press might motivate Comcast to be a little more like Santa, but with the company once again flaunting Net Neutrality standards and maintaining its “we-hate-people” customer service policy, it should come as no surprise to hear that one of the country’s leading high-speed Internet providers is acting more like Scrooge.

This past week Comcast was at the centre of two telling stories. The first revolved around Comcast’s tight-fisted and distinctly Scrooge-like refund policy relating to a massive cable and Internet outage that swept across the Mid-West, the second pertaining to Comcast ignoring Net Neutrality standards yet again by throttling back the country’s official NetFlix content provider.

If you were unfortunate enough to be a Comcast customer through the Mid-West this past week, you no doubt were faced with the frustrating discovery that your cable and Internet were, once again, unavailable. Exactly one week after a huge service outage swept across the Eastern seaboard, customers in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan reportedly had to do without service for the better part of a day.

While Comcast explained that the outage was due to an unfortunate failure of the company’s Domain Name System (DNS) servers, which translate web addresses into numeric format, the exact same reason for the earlier East Coast network failure, its not the failure itself that is the story here, but Comcast’s response to it.

For those who are interested in a refund for the disruption in their Internet and cable service, prepare for frustration that rivals being stuck in the worst holiday crowds. Not only is Comcast not issuing refunds automatically, but is instead demanding that interested customers contact the company’s customer service department. Then, after waiting on the phone for the better part of an hour and cutting through the companies copious amounts of red tape, you’ll find that you are entitled to almost nothing, a mere $2 on a $60/month plan.

Increased customer frustration aside, Comcast is also in the news for another Internet throttling scandal—if you can even call it a ‘scandal’. Early last week, internet backbone provider Level 3 accused Comcast of threatening to scale back its broadband service unless Level 3 paid additional fees; fees that Level 3 claims violate Net Neutrality standards.

Long story short, Level 3 has recently struck a deal with NetFlix to be the online video company’s official content delivery provider, a move that has admittedly significantly increased Level 3’s broadband traffic. Comcast is now claiming that Level 3 needs to pay for its increased broadband usage or have Comcast throttle back its usage, though Level 3 claims its being treated unfairly.

But do either of these stories really surprise anyone who has had the misfortune of being a Comcast customer? I sincerely doubt it. In fact, you’d be foolish to expect anything other than a lump of coal in your stocking and a swift kick in the ass from Comcast this Christmas.

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Michael McNamara December 14, 2010 at 1:00 am

Hi Matt,

With regard to the Level 3 issue, I think the real problem here is that Comcast is trying to milk the cow from all sides. They charge their customers $60/month for bandwidth that they consume but then want to charge providers again for that same bandwidth that they themselves should provide. I wonder what the over-subscription rate of Comcast’s peering points are compared with the total edge bandwidth they provide. I’m sure that number would dwarf some of the ugliest over-subscription numbers I’ve ever seen.


Matt Klassen December 14, 2010 at 2:23 am


I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve written extensively about how Comcast–and just about every other provider in the country–double (and sometimes triple) charges you for the same bandwidth, a point that more people would be angry about if they actually knew it was happening.

Of course the ongoing Net Neutrality debate addresses this exact issue, as well as throttling back high bandwidth users, and I for one hope that it stops this sort of nonsense from Comcast and Co.

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