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Posts tagged: Comcast Corp.

Comcast allows nonprofits to provide low-cast prepaid Internet cards

Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, is allowing groups and nonprofits to buy prepaid cards for its Internet Essentials broadband service.

Recent press releases say the option will roll out in the second half of 2013.

Comcast is required to offer Internet Essentials to qualifiying families and customers. Criteria are:

  • Have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program
  • Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days
  • Not have an overdue Comcast bill or unreturned equipment

The eligibility also includes families with home-schooled students and those with students in private or parochial schools. Since starting the service, Comcast has enrolled more than 150,000 families, representing a total of 600,000 low-income Americans (including 300,000 children), the company disclosed recently.

The offer means eligible homes pay $9.95 per month for Internet service measuring 3 Mbps.

Comcast itself recognizes the service is essential in bridging the “digital divide.”  It said it's seen broadband adoption in higher-income areas reaching around 90 percent of households. While in lower income areas, the rate of adoption approaches 15 to 20 percent of households.

See this a blog post for a recent Comcast blog post on that topic.

The Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards will provide “yet another way to accelerate enrollment by empowering community-based partners, businesses and foundations to help connect families to the Internet,” Comcast said in a statement.

Comcast adds 17 new HD channels to TV lineup, including CSPAN HD

Comcast has added 17 channels to its HD channels in Spokane County. The availability for viewers depends on one's video service level. This means that Comcast viewers here potentially have 456 channels including the 17 new ones. One can also get 46 music channels.

We asked Comcast what it would cost to get all 456 channels. The answer is not easy; with all sorts of bundles and packages, the price would be tough to calculate. Plus, a fair number of those channels are in several foreign languages.

So let's get to the list of new channels:

CSN-NW HD (Comcast Sportsnet Northwest)  617
CSPAN HD  645
GMC HD 684
GSN HD 718
H2 HD 712
Hub HD 721
INDIPLEXHD 708
INV DSC HD (Investigation Discovery) 713
NGWILD HD  666
OVATIONHD 715
RETROPLXHD 709
SPORTSMNHD  636
SPROUT HD 720
TV Guide HD 717
Cooking Channel HD 716
Smithsonian HD 714

Foodies will be glad to have Cooking Channel. And the government types might really enjoy CSPAN in HD.

If you have questions about availability, you need to contact the cable guys.

Wait. If you counted the list you'll find only 16 channels. Where's No. 17?

It's UNIVIS HD on channel 726. It's being added to Comcast's MultiLatino Spanish package.

Comcast limited basic subscribers need to switch as final channels go digital

Comcast Corp. is alerting viewers in Spokane who still receive analog, non-digital TV signals for limited basic cable that they need new boxes to watch those programs in digital format.

Getting the digital equipment costs nothing, said Comcast spokesman Walt Neary, provided a customer doesn't need more than three digital receivers.

In  2009 Comcast moved its standard cable lineup — channels 30 to 70 — to the digital format.

The last step, taking place near the first of April, is the conversion of analog channels 2-30, 72-79 and 95-99.

Neary estimated the Spokane area has roughly 2,500 homes or customers who still use receive limited basic in analog format.

Like all other major cable companies, Comcast is making the change so that it can use bandwidth for more channels and more services for customers.

Here's the Comcast summary of the key step:

To continue receiving limited basic channels, customers need a digital cable box or a Digital Transport Adapter.  Similar to Comcast’s offer when we upgraded the expanded basic service to digital, we’re providing up to three Digital Transport Adapters, small cable equipment we call DTAs, for our Limited Basic customers at no charge.

To get the equipment, customers can call 877-634-4434 or log on to www.comcast.com/digitalnow.

Recent subscriber totals for DirecTV and Comcast show an upward trend

EDITED and revised Wednesday, Aug. 29:

Here's one piece of market information we didn't have earlier.

The total number of households in the Spokane DMA (designated market area) is about 430,000.

If the SNL Kagan number is correct, there are 351,656 homes that subscribe either to cable or satellite in this market.

That's 82 percent of all homes. The remainder either don't want to watch TV or rely on over-the-air signals, or have cut the cable and use web based systems, like Netflix or Hulu.

Updated subscriber numbers.

Earlier today OfficeHours posted the old December 2010 numbers relating to how many subscribers DirecTV has in the Spokane TV market. We went out today looking for the latest numbers. The market is the entire eastern Washington area over to the mountains, and also includes portions of Idaho and Oregon.

SNL Kagan, a media tracking company, provided the most recent update (numbers from 2Q 2012):

                   2010 subscribers                  2012 subscribers

Comcast:         100,000                                 107,034

DISH:               102,000                                 103,318

DIRECTV:           69,000                                  75,700

Total market area number of paid programming subscribers: 351,656.

What amazes us is that the three main providers gained paid subscribers in the past two years.

In a down economy, that's a bit of a surprise.

Comcast rolls out two options for highest data consumers, drops 250 gigabyte limit

Comcast officials said on Thursday they're discarding the current 250 gigabyte data use limit on residential customers, replacing it with two new options that will raise the limit to 300 gigs per month.

Comcast officials hosted a conference call from Philadelphia saying it's moving forward with two test options, both of which will be tested evaluatued “to maintain and insure the highest quality service” for its 20 million U.S. data customers.

It's not clear when the two new options will be tested in Washington state. 

The Comcast blog statement is here.

One option is to introduce a tiered system, with customers starting with no limits for using 300 gigabytes of data. Customers choosing to use more can set paid plans at $10 for each additional 50 gigabytes per month.

Option two will start with 300 gigabytes of free use per month, and then offer “on demand” additional blocks of 50 gigs as needed. Prices might vary for those additional blocks, but might be identical to those in option one ($10 for 50 additional gigabytes).

David Cohen, a Comcast executive vice president, said the change will occur over time and will determine which of the two tests is most flexible and the best solution to maintain network quality.

Cohen also said “the vast majority” of Comcast's 20 million U.S. customers do not come anywhere close to the 250 gigabyte limit. Since being implemented in 2008, Comcast has on occasion shut down residential customers who exceed the 250 gigabyte limit.

Cohen said the decision is a recognition and a “philosophical adjustment” to our highest volume customers, and that it reflects the view by Comcast that “we don't want to discourage you from using Comcast and having an 'essentially unlimited data service.” 

Comcast launches Xfinity home security service, tying controls to broadband

Cable company Comcast Corp. has launched a home security service as part of its Xfinity Home package, offering both monitoring and remote controls that can be used to adjust lights or heating.

The company made the new service available Tuesday across Washington state. The service includes a remote app for enabling video from inside the house or for changing alerts or lighting. That app is available on Apple devices, said a Comcast press release.  Personal computers can also use the app for making home security selections.
 
The fee is $39.95 per month.  Among other options, customers can receive text or email alerts when doors open or close, or when motion detectors in the house report activity.

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Comcast will offer TV-plus-Skype, home security service for Spokane in 2012

Comcast Corp., the largest cable company in Washington and the U.S., plans to announce new services for Spokane and Washington state broadband customers next year.

Those are a Skype TV service and a home security over broadband service.  The Skype plan will let users with modern TVs use the interactive platform for video conferencing and phone calls. Skype, of course, can be used as a simple IM chat service as well.

No price plan has been announced and no announced start date has been set.

The home security service has been going through some early testing, including in parts of Portland. For a story on that test, here's an Oregonian report.

For a nice overview of how Comcast and Time Warner and other companies are diving into home security, here's a solid story from the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-cable-home-security-20111206,0,3074487.story

The home security option will require some investment in equipment or at least using an upgraded version of the Xfinity app. The monthly cost, apart from startup fees and equipment costs, will run aboug $40 a month, according to a Comcast press sheet.

Comcast offers more details about Essentials web service for familes

Comcast Corp. has launched a three-year effort to push broadband technology into lower-income homes. Called the Internet Essentials program, the test will offer $9.95 per month broadband connections to every family who lives in the Comcast service area and who has a child receiving free school lunches.

Launched this past summer, the program will run through 2013, said Comcast spokesman Walt Neary. Neary visited Spokane this week and took part in two sessions explaining the program.

Eligible families can also receive a voucher worth $150 toward the purchase of a netbook computer for use in the program.

In addition, Comcast is arranging for free Internet training across Washington state for eligible families. In Spokane those courses will be provided through the Boys and Girls Club of Spokane County and through Tincan, a nonprofit that advocates for technology training.

No starting dates for the classes have been announced.

To be eligible, a family must live within Comcast’s service area, have a child participating in a free lunch school program and not have used the company’s Internet service within the preceding 90 days.

Once signed up, the program continues at $9.95 through the child’s senior year in school if the student continues receiving a free lunch.

Comcast officials say between two and three million children within its national service area are eligible.

Comcast will not make any attempt to upsell more services to families using the program, Neary added.

Comcast giving low-income residents a discounted broadband option

The digital divide?  You remember it, don't you? It's that gaping chasm separating you guys with broadband from those who have to sputter along using a dial up modem, or else line up at the library.Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator, plans to help bridge the divide for those with limited incomes. As noted on NPR.org, the company is offering decent broadband services at a discount rate of roughly $10 per month. A deal:

The company says low-income families will now be able to get a fast Internet connection for $9.95 per month; the question now is whether the effort can overcome the many barriers that keep the poor from getting online.

Comcast announced the program, called “Internet Essentials,” at a splashy event in the company's hometown of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter showed up along with city and state education officials as a sign that this program is aimed at an important problem: improving school performance.
 
The program will offer a big discount to low-income families, says Comcast Vice President David Cohen. Basic high-speed Internet, which normally would cost around $50 per month, will be available for the $9.95 rate.
 
To be eligible, families must have a child who qualifies for the free school lunch program — that means an income of less than $25,000 a year for a family of three. Because Internet access doesn't do much good without a computer, Comcast is also offering coupons that will allow these families to buy a basic PC for $150.

Seattle man loses web service after Comcast penalizes him for data use

Will Comcast cut off your Internet service if you use a ton of data, for whatever reason? Basically, yes, provided you go above their 250-gigabyte limit per month (and do so twice).

Here's a YouTube video posted by Seattle blogger-geek Chris Pirillo about the Comcast one-year-without-Web penalty imposed on another Seattle user, a guy named Andre Vrignaud.

Why should you care?  It can and does happen. And in some instances, as Vrignaud claims happened to him, the Comcast data-use monitor that should help one track data consumption can be disabled or fail to work.

We're unclear why that usage monitor disappeared, and we'll ask a few questions of our Comcast contacts on the west side.

Comcast goes after DirecTV over ‘free’ NFL Sunday Ticket promotions

                                 

  We keep track of  Comcast, the major cable provider in Eastern Washington. We also follow DirecTV, a satellite program provider that's been engaged in a longstanding contract dispute with the company operating KAYU-TV, the Spokane Fox Network affiliate.

In fact, the dispute between KAYU's owners and DirecTV is now in its ninth month, with no resolution in sight. There is the potential for another late-year shutdown of signals from KAYU if the parties don't agree.

So it caught our eye when Comcast filed suit against DirecTV. Here are the particulars:

Comcast filed a complaint in an Illinois court, alleging DirecTV is misrepresenting that it can offer NFL Sunday Ticket programming for free.

Sunday Ticket provides subscribers with all out-of-market games on Sunday afternoons.

“As none of the ads disclose,” the lawsuit said, “the offer is not for free NFL Sunday Ticket service — the offer requires a two-year contract with hefty termination for early cancellation with the NFL Sunday Ticket service automatically renewing in the second year at full price.”

Comcast also charged that DirecTV is a  “serial offender” in false advertising.

Comcast ups cable prices in Spokane, and the timing is notable

We were snoozing or on vacation when, earlier this summer, Comcast announced TV and other service rate hikes for Washington customers. The formal announcement said:

“We are making investments in next-generation technology to add value to our products and improve service. We’ve also launched new interactive applications and multi-platform content that customers want and value.  We’ve worked hard to hold down price adjustments, even given the impact of higher programming costs, and in 2011, the average customer bill will increase by 2.8 percent.  These adjustments will not impact about half of our customers because they currently receive services as part of a promotional offer.”

So, a good number of cable customers in Spokane didn't see a hike. But once those promotional deals end, the hike will come.

What's notable is the timing of the increases. This increase took effect July 1.

The previous new rate hike took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

The one before that took effect on Oct. 6, 2009.

It used to be Comcast went roughly 12 months before increasing prices. That's apparently been replaced by some other, quicker system. We need to do some research on what the industry practice is.  Do cable companies no longer bother to wait a year before another price hike?

We asked Steve Kipp, a Comcast West side spokesman, to elaborate on the pricing schedule. We wondered if the pattern is to squeeze increases in a little earlier each year.

Kipp emailed back a quick reply, saying he would not comment.
  

Comcast adds 105Mbps service for Spokane area customers

Spokane is among cities where Comcast is now offering “Extreme 105 Mbps,” making it one of the fastest download Internet options for cable subscribers.

The top speed before was roughly 50 megabits per second.

If ordered with a bundle, the 12-month cost for users is $105 per month. Otherwise it will be $199 per month for standalone service.

Comcast spokesman Walt Neary said the appeal seems strongest among families who have several members involved in serious online gaming.

About 40 million homes nationwide are potentially able to get the upgraded service.

The Federal Commnications Commission has set a goal of 100-Mbps for 100 million U.S. homes by 2020, as a target for increasing the nation's broadband capacity.

Comcast still maintains a 250GB data cap per month, even for anyone using the Exteme 105 service. Users exceeding that cap will be given warnings of possible disconnects.

Comcast allowing free phone calls to Japan to help people stay in touch

Comcast is now allowing free calls to Japan for people using its Xfinity voice service. Those customers are both residences and businesses using its Business Class service.

The plan is to provide free calls from now through April 10, allowing people to reach friends and loved ones in Japan.

“We want to help ensure our customers with loved ones living in or visiting Japan have the means to remain in close contact with them during this difficult time,” according to Cathy Avgiris, GM for Communications and Data Services with Comcast.

More info is available at http://blog.comcast.com/ or http://www.comcast.com/About/PressRelease/PressReleaseDetail.ashx?PRID=1053

Dish Network hardly better than Comcast, sees cord-cutting, penny-pinching

One week ago Office Hours had a post on the continuing decline in video customers felt by cable company Comcast Corp.

This week let's be fair and give an update on the tough year Dish Network had in 2010.

Dish Network Corp. on Feb. 24 said it gained a mere U.S. 33,000 customers in 2010, one of its smallest subscriber increases in years, due to increased competition, higher numbers of subscribers “cutting the cord” and a weak economy.

The recently filed 10-K form said Dish Network felt a 92 percent drop in net new subscribers in 2010, compared with 2009.

The satellite service provider said its churn rate rose to 1.76 percent in 2010, up from 1.64 percent in 2009. Dish gave as one reason “programming interruptions related to contract disputes.”

In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone Dish Network lost 156,000 subscribers but boosted profit and revenue as consumers spent more on services.

Comcast sees more cord-cutting, but gains with data and voice subs

As a follow-up to an earlier Spokesman.com story on the increasing numbers of people cutting the cord from paid TV services, we take note of the fourth quarter earnings reported by Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator.

As it did over the first three quarters of 2010, the cable giant saw losses in total video subscribers. (No numbers are broken out for regions such as Washington.)

It more than made it up for those defections with increased spending by other customers — the ones that opt for multiple products and broadband data and voice subscriptions.

Overall, the company is certainly not hurting. Comcast's broadband margins are clearly driving the gains, noted BernsteinResearch's Craig Moffett in a story cited at online pub MediaBiz.

The publication also said: “In terms of subscriber gains and losses, Comcast reported basic video losses of -135K to 22,802K and broadband gains of 292K to 1,698K.  Phone adds were 257K to 8,610K.  All three metrics beat consensus.  In a move sure to please investors, Comcast also increased its dividend by 19 percent to $0.45/share/year.”
  

Comcast rolling out ultra-fast broadband for area businesses

Comcast is rolling out, without fanfare, a much faster broadband service for businesses.

Spokane and just about all other Washington Comcast metros can now sign up for 100 Mbps  Business Class Internet Service.

This is an upgrade that roughly doubles what business customers of Comcast have been getting — namely about 50 megabits per second for a price of $189.95. The new service, which hasn’t even been marketed yet, jumps download speeds to 100 Mbps and upload speeds to 15 Mbps.

The price at the fast fast faster speed is about $369.95 per month. For that price the service is bundled with lots of other goodies, such as a Microsoft Exchange service and Symantec antivirus for up to 25 machines.

Comcast has other other slower-bandwidth options at lower prices for businesses as well.

Walt Neary, a Comcast spokesman, noted that the upgrade provides some of the fastest broadband service available in the nation.

Where already tested, the Comcast Business Class service gives medical companies and large firms with huge data needs plenty of options, Neary noted.

One example:  a high-resolution medical image or a large design file of 2 gigabytes could be downloaded in roughly 2.5 minutes on the Business Class service.. Neary said the same file would take 3 hours on the “typical” business T1 line that can download at 1.5 megabits per second.


 

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