While Comcast claims victory, Altice faces criticism (Update: Report on March 16th hearing)

Tom Paine

Altice’s NY, NJ & Connecticut footprint

Comcast issued a somewhat self-congratulatory press release yesterday morning, highlighting its network’s performance during the pandemic.

As the pandemic took hold, parent frequently worked from home, children were attending class via Zoom, and there was much more home entertainment via streaming.

Peak traffic on Comcast’s network increased 32% during 2020, reaching a peak of 50% in some markets in March.

But on the whole, response times held up. (Though I am not a Comcast customer; I am relying on other’s reactions and comments).

“The Internet was a bright spot during the darkest hours of 2020, keeping hundreds of millions of people connected to work, school, entertainment, and most importantly, each other,” said Tony Werner, President of Technology, Product, Xperience at Comcast Cable in the release. “We’re proud of the years of strategic investment and innovation that enabled us to build the foundation of a high-speed, intelligent network designed to scale to the needs of our most demanding users, and also adapt to unexpected events.”

As talk of reimposing some measure of net neutrality regulations rose with the change of administrations, Comcast wisely backed down from plans, at least on the east coast, to enforce data caps that could lead to extra charges for the remainder of 2021.

But the performance of Altice, the French outfit that bought the former Cablevision a few years back and serves wide swaths of New Jersey (perhaps more than half after its recent acquisition of a large part of Service Electric’s New Jersey service area) under the Optimum brand name, before and during the pandemic was not so warmly reviewed. From Montville to Jackson to Piscataway to Hamilton, the complaints sounded strikingly similar, according to a state Board of Public Utilities report:

“Citing issues raised by their respective residents concerning frequent and lengthy service disruptions (across all services), inconsistent connections and fluctuating Internet speeds,long telephone wait times, poor customer service, and an inability to get a satisfactory response to these issues from the company both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Although Altice has met with some local communities, overall it hasn’t resolved much.

A virtual hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 16, at 10 a.m., because of. the BPUs’ “review of various complaints from municipal and government officials requesting a Board investigation and intervention in this matter.” It will give both officials and Altice customers the opportunity to raise issues about the services received from Altice and have the company respond to the concerns, according to the BPU.

Update: Ashbury Park Press reports on yesterday’s Altice hearing.

Comcast comment to CNN on SolarWinds

Not quite sure what this means:

“As soon as we learned of the SolarWinds incident on Sunday, we quickly activated a series of internal security protocols to mitigate any potential impact,” Comcast told CNN in a statement. “We are conducting a thorough internal review, but at this time, we have no reason to believe that any Comcast data or customer data was compromised in connection with the use of SolarWinds products.”

Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 11/25: What year is it? Comcast price increases, Amazon outage, Salesforce on verge of a big acquisition

Philly EnterpriseTech Weekend Highlights: Malone on Cable Vertical Integration; The spectacular financial failures of Fisker Automobiles


Philly EnterpriseTech Weekend Highlights 11/13 – 11/15

Comcast after Trump

Tom Paine

You’d think Comcast would be happy to see Donald Trump (eventually) depart the White House. Back in February of this year, Trump said in a speech:

“NBC, I think, is worse than CNN,” Trump said. “And Comcast, a company that spends millions and millions of dollars on their image — I’ll do everything possible to destroy their image because they are terrible.”

Whether that attitude stemmed from something dating back to his time with his NBC show “The Apprentice”, the apparent leaking of his raunchy conversation with Billy Bush, or NBC News’ and MSNBC’s typically harsh coverage of his candidacy and presidency, Trump is certainly known for carrying a grudge, repeatedly threatening to break up Comcast on antitrust grounds though there was no legal basis for that. He repeatedly referred to Comcast as “Concast ” on the campaign trail this year.

But for Comcast’s NBC, the bitter relationship may have been a positive, especially in a city like Philadelphia where many held Trump in low esteem.

Trump appeared in an NBC Town Hall in late October, going against a Biden Town Hall appearing at the same time on another network. And NBC took a great deal of criticism for hosting that show.

Trump never shared a round of golf with Brian Roberts, to the best of my knowledge, as President Obama did. In March, Trump spoke with Roberts along with several other telecom executives on a conference call. I’m not aware of any other direct contact between the two men during Trump’s presidency.

There is talk now that Trump might become a competitor in the cable news business.

But on one point Comcast may miss Trump. FCC chairman Ajit Pai booted Net Neutrality regulations, and removed many barriers to media consolidation, among other things. Under Biden, he would lose his chairmanship as the majority reverts back to the Democrats, and is widely expected to depart the commission. The Biden administration may attempt to revive net neutrality, though Congress and the Courts could push back.

Comcast Senior Vice President David Cohen, who stepped down this year from a broad portfolio of responsibilities including Washington affairs, is still on staff as an advisor. Cohen, 65, may have less political influence in Philly now due to the rise of progressives, who are less likely to listen to a centrist like him. But. he is close to Biden, for whom he held a fundraiser at his home right after Biden declared his candidacy, and can work across the aisle with Republicans. Certainly he can be a valuable asset for Comcast given the new administration, though he seems determined to slow down a little.

Philly EnterpriseTech Peoplenews June 12: Ex Dell exec (spent time at Boomi) to head refurbished Vonage; Comcast has new Treasurer & head of DC office

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