Comcast set for FCC D-day

brianroberts4.jpgThe U.S. Federal Communications Commission is likely to vote today to uphold a network complaint against Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable television operator, which was accused of violating open-Internet principles by blocking peer-to-peer traffic on its network.

The FCC chairman Kevin Martin and two Democrat commissioners have already voted in favor of a reprimand, according to a source. That makes it three out of five votes and even following last-minute protests from the Bush administration officials and the top House Republican as this Wall Street Journal story says it’s likely to go through.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts spoke up in defense of his company’s network management practices at its quarterly annual meeting on Wednesday.

We disagree with the FCC’s apparent finding by three commissioners. We believe our network management choices were reasonable, consistent with industry practices and we have never blocked any websites or any applications as some of the articles have suggested. 

FCC’s decision today could finally kick start the long-simmering ‘net neutrality’ debate. Comcast and other ISPs are not likely to walk away with their tails between their legs.

Doesn’t matter what the FCC says Wii love you: Comcast

It’s been a rough few weeks for cable operator Comcast Corp. U.S. regulator FCC is on the verge of punishing it for allegedly fiddling with subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent while New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is threatening to sue if Comcast doesn’t agree to join other Internet service providers to block access to child pornography.

But the largest U.S. cable operator is hoping to win over its customers by offering a free Nintendo Wii to new subscribers to its Triple Play package of video, Internet and phone.nintendowii.jpg

The national free Wii offer runs from Monday till August 17th for new subscribers who have to agree to sign up for two years to one of Comcast’s premium Triple Play packages: Preferred Plus (at $129 a month) and Premier Triple Play ($159 a month).

Comcast AGM: Everybody hates Brian


Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV operator, might have had a strong first quarter, started paying a dividend, and even be able to claim to be one of the best performing stocks in 2008 in its sector – but CEO Brian Roberts still couldn’t catch a break from shareholders at Wednesday’s annual general meeting.

Worker unions pointed out Roberts gets paid 964 times the average non-supervisory Comcast worker, while a shareholder advisory group demanded (as usual) that the company adopts a one-share one-vote structure and drops the 33-percent voting rights Roberts currently holds under the dual shares structure.

But worst of all for Roberts was the presence of Evelyn Davis, 78, the self proclaimed Queen of the corporate jungle, who dominated proceedings as usual by haranguing management over various obvious and sometimes obscure details about the business.

Who’s winning pay-TV war this quarter?

brianrobertsandglennbritt.jpgSo who’s winning the pay-TV so far this year? With days to go until two of the biggest cable operators (Time Warner Cable on Wednesday and Comcast on Thursday)  report first quarter financial results, Reuters canvassed eight Wall Street analysts for their estimates of subscriber net additions during the period.

At first glance it doesn’t look like it will be a good quarter with these analysts forecasting Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision to lose around 100,000 basic TV subscribers collectively, while satellite TV plays DIRECTV Group and DISH Network will add around 320,000.

Even more worrisome for cable companies?  AT&T and Verizon added around 410,000 new TV subscribers between them during the quarter.

Cable, Sprint up ante on rivals

cellphone-guy.jpgTwo sectors may be getting a new lease on life after the Wall Street Journal reported news that a handful of the top U.S. cable operators are exploring a joint venture with Sprint Nextel and Clearwire to create a national high-speed wireless network to fight off the telcos for subscribers.

Without a big infusion of cash, WiMax technology could be a non-starter in the U.S. So far, Sprint has planned to introduce the service in three markets.

Expanding beyond that may prove a tough sell for Sprint shareholders who had widely criticized its commitment last year to spend $5 billion on WiMax by 2010. Sprint is also struggling to keep its existing customers from leaving.