HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Ryan Block, who works at AOL and at one time was Engadget’s editor-in-chief and is co-founder of gdgt, was moving and decided he wanted to cancel his Comcast service and start at his new home with a different provider. Simple, right? Just pick up the phone, call Comcast and disconnect. Well, no. It wasn’t that simple. Listen to this astonishing recording in which Block is badgered by a Comcast rep who demands to know why he’s canceling the service. It’s a train wreck. MORE
RYAN BLOCK: This recording picks up roughly 10 minutes into the call, whereby she and I have already played along and given a myriad of reasons and explanations as to why we are canceling (which is why I simply stopped answering the rep’s repeated question — it was clear the only sufficient answer was “Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all.”). MORE
COMCAST: We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect. MORE
PHAWKER: Cough. The very fact that Comcast calls the employees that help you disconnect your service Customer Retention Reps ensures that all calls from customers looking to terminate their Comcast account start off in conflict. This is not an accident. Good Customer Retention Reps do exactly what this guys does, they’re just not so bull-in-the-china-shop about it. Comcast is not sorry this happened, they are sorry such a naked depiction of their corporate culture was captured on tape and shared widely on the Internet.
RELATED: A senior congressional Republican this week introduced legislation that would bar the federal government from using its powers to help community-owned internet service providers compete with private telecommunications companies. The move comes just as a Chattanooga-based community owned Internet provider that delivers some of the fastest connections in the nation, EPB, is girding up for an expansion plan that would take on major telecommunications firms far beyond its home region. In many states major providers of high speed internet connections have successfully lobbied state lawmakers to deliver legislation that bars community-owned internet providers from expanding beyond their home territories. The FCC has the authority to intervene and preempt such state laws to enable smaller Internet providers to compete with larger national firms. The legislation-introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) as an amendment to an annual spending bill, would strip the FCC of this power. Blackburn’s (R-TN) top donors include private telecommunications firms that do not want to have to compete with publicly owned ISPs. Her state is home to EPB, a taxpayer-owned power company in Chattanooga that also provides local residents some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world at market-competitive rates. EPB is now aiming to expand its services beyond Chattanooga. […] If passed by Congress, Blackburn’s amendment could effectively strip the FCC of its preemption power, at least for the year that the underlying annual appropriations measure is in force. That would halt EPB’s new expansion proposal, and send a larger message to other community-owned utilities that they may not get federal relief from state statutes. That would be a big win for the private telecom industry, which might explain Blackburn’s central role in the fight. According to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, two of Blackburn’s largest career donors are employees and PAC’s affiliated with AT&T (NYSE:T) ($66,750) and Comcast ($36,600). Those are two of EPB’s private-sector competitors in Chattanooga. Blackburn has also taken $56,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which is the lobbying group representing major private telecom firms. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: Internet users deserve far better, and we thought we were going to get it from a president who promised to “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality.” Watch now as he and his FCC chairman try to spin tomorrow’s betrayal as another “mission accomplished.” Don’t believe it. This bogus victory has become all too familiar to those watching the Obama administration and its appointees squander opportunities for real change. The reality is that reform is just a rhetorical front for industry compromises that reward the biggest players and K-Street lobbyists while giving the public nothing. It’s not the FCC chairman’s job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users. More than two million people have taken action on behalf of Net Neutrality. Tomorrow, we’ll all get the carpet yanked from beneath our feet. Net Neutrality is the freedom of speech, freedom of choice issue of the 21st century. It’s the guarantee of a more open and democratic media system that was baked into the Internet at its founding. On Tuesday, Obama’s FCC is going to sell that out. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: Comcast, Where The Internet Goes To Die
PREVIOUSLY: WORTH REPEATING: 8 Reasons Why Comcast Sucks
THE VERGE: In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.We’re really, really fucking this up. But we can fix it, I swear. We just have to start telling each other the truth. Not the doublespeak bullshit of regulators and lobbyists, but the actual truth. Once we have the truth, we have the power — the power to demand better not only from our government, but from the companies that serve us as well. “This is a political fight,” says Craig Aaron, president of the advocacy group Free Press. “When the internet speaks with a unified voice politicians rip their hair out.” We can do it. Let’s start.
THE INTERNET IS A UTILITY, JUST LIKE WATER AND ELECTRICITY
Go ahead, say it out loud. The internet is a utility. There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion. Internet access isn’t a luxury or a choice if you live and participate in the modern economy, it’s a requirement. […] It’s time to just end these stupid legal word games and say what we all already know: internet access is a utility. A commodity that should get better and faster and cheaper over time. Anyone who says otherwise is lying for money. MORE