Comcast policies frustrate cable-modem users
Copyright 2002 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Copyright 2002 The Patriot-News
Dauphin County Judge Lawrence Clark had a surprise awaiting him when he purchased a popular and inexpensive Linksys cable modem to use with his Comcast Internet connection at home in Hershey, Pa..
Comcast wouldn't let him use the modem, even though it was DOCSIS 1.0 compliant, the accepted industry standard for cable modems. The Linksys modem had been certified by Cable Labs, the industry-backed testing laboratory.
Clark is not the only one of Comcast's 6,600 midstate cable-modem subscribers to run afoul of policies on what hardware or software Comcast will support on its new network. Users of the Netscape Internet browser have discovered problems, too.
"What happened, as I heard from some of their people, is that only certain (modem) manufacturers have these sweetheart deals with the cable company," said Clark, a longtime Internet enthusiast.
Anne Bongiovanni, a Comcast spokeswoman, would not confirm or deny that Linksys, a large and well-known manufacturer, had been asked to pay for the privilege of having its modems used on the Comcast network.
"Comcast has a list of approved modems that are certified to be compatible with the Comcast high-speed Internet service," she said. "We are currently working with Linksys to certify the modem as compatible."
Karen Sohl, a spokeswoman for Linksys, said she didn't think there had been a request from Comcast for payment. She said the Linksys BEFCMU-10 modem in question has been approved by every other major cable system in the United States.
"The only one that hasn't approved it is Comcast," Sohl said. "We're wondering, too, why it's taking a longer time than with the others."
She said Comcast hoped to have the Linksys modem approved for use by March 22.
Meanwhile, Judge Clark has an unusable modem for which he paid $125. That's on the low end of cable-modem prices — Comcast charges $199. He continues to rent a modem from Comcast for $5 a month.
Netscape users such as John Witmer in Swatara and David Roccasecca in Susquehanna have discovered that Comcast favors a competing browser, Internet Explorer from Microsoft Corp., which has a $1 billion investment in Comcast.
Witmer said the Comcast technician who came to his house told him Comcast did not "support" Netscape, which means it does not offer technical assistance to customers who want to use Netscape on their Comcast account. Roccasecca couldn't access the Member Services page on the Comcast.net Web page with Netscape, but could with Internet Explorer.
Bongiovanni of Comcast said only about 1 percent of Comcast customers — versus about 12 percent worldwide — use the Netscape browser. Netscape, which is owned by AOL Time Warner, has lost considerable market share to Microsoft, but retains a base of loyal users.
"We are working to enhance the portal, and the addition of Netscape is under consideration," she said.
Netscape did not return calls seeking comment.