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Innovation

Outrageous Comcast customer agreement - Frank Eliason's reply

As I mentioned in the post Outrageous Comcast updates to customer agreement - all your systems belong to us, Comcast has revised its residential customer services agreement and imposed those revisions on subscribers. Here is a pointer to the revised customer services agreement for those of the legal persuasion.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor on

As I mentioned in the post Outrageous Comcast updates to customer agreement - all your systems belong to us, Comcast has revised its residential customer services agreement and imposed those revisions on subscribers. Here is a pointer to the revised customer services agreement for those of the legal persuasion.

Comcast's Frank Eliason, Director Digital Care, promised to address my concerns in a message. The message arrived after office hours yesterday evening.  I'm taking the liberty of posting his response here.

Frank Eliason's note

Dan,

Thank you for taking the time to discuss your concerns regarding the scope of the terms and conditions that apply to our residential services.  As promised, I wanted to follow up with this email about some of the specifics we discussed.  In your post on April 1, 2009 you had certain questions regarding this section of the Comcast Agreement for Residential Services:

For Video and Comcast High-Speed Internet (”HSI”) Customers. You agree that by using the Services, you are enabling and authorizing Comcast, its authorized agents and equipment manufacturers to send code updates to the Comcast Equipment and Customer Equipment, including but not limited to <emphasis is mine> cable modems and digital interactive televisions with CableCARDs, at any time it is determined necessary to do so as part of the Services. Such code updates may change, add or remove features or functionality of any such equipment or the Services.

This section is specifically related to the devices that we use to deliver cable television service, such as settop boxes, CableCard devices, Tru2Way devices, and the devices and programs we use to deliver our high speed Internet service, such as cable modems, routers, the Comcast Toolbar, and the McAfee Security Suite.  All of these devices and programs require updates, often from their manufacturers, to enable them to provide continuous service to our customers.  These updates are no different from the operating systems or other programs on personal computers that from time to time require updates.  As we deploy more flexible, software and firmware driven devices, these kinds of updates are necessary and beneficial so we can continue to provide our customers with the services they expect, and new products and features.

Since you may not be as familiar with Tru2Way, I wanted to provide additional information.  Tru2Way is a cableCARD that lets Customers get HD, On Demand and interactive program guide without a set top box.  We have worked with others within our industry and many manufactures including Panasonic to create a new way for people to have the full experience that cable TV can provide.  Today in some areas we are supporting Tru2Way televisions.  But in the future the possibilities are really endless such as DVRs or even computer cards that support Tru2Way technology.  At the bottom of this email I included a few links on the topic.

I love the fact that I work for a company that touches our Customers lives in so many positive ways.  In fact, I was just at the cable show this week and it is unbelievable all the possibilities that are made possible now and in the future through cable.  Those possibilities exist today thanks to this flexible technology.  We word our terms of service to provide our customers with clear information about our practices, and since we can’t anticipate every possible Customer, device, and service scenario, we need to word them somewhat broadly to cover those situations.  Of course, as the terms make very clear, we do all of this for one reason: to deliver our services.

2008 CES Presentation, including Tru2Way

http://www.comcast.com/ces/

Panasonic TV

http://www2.panasonic.com/consumer-electronics/learn/televisions/whats-hot-viera-tru2way.jsp

You may also want to check out some of the posts on our blog from this week’s Cable Show in Washington DC, including Broadband Nation which tried to show all the possibilities the future will bring.  http://www.comcastvoices.com

Thanks again!

Frank Eliason

Analysis

Frank is a great public spokesperson for Comcast. He presented Comcast's view that this broad reaching wording is necessary to make it legally possible for the company to update cable boxes and elements inside of today's intelligent televisions. He also adroitly sidestepped the the fact that this wording does indeed make it possible for a Comcast representative to come to a subscriber's door and demand access to their computer equipment. The wording would allow Comcast to make any changes they saw fit to the subscribers hardware or software. Good job Frank!

I believe that the wording of Comcast's revised customer services agreement is way too broad and should not be allowed to stand.

If you agree or disagree, it would be good if you would make your feelings known to Comcast management.  Here's a pointer to their "contact us" page on the Comcast website.

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