By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Don’t you love Comcast?

Sometime within the past few months, C-SPAN2 and ESPN Classic disappeared from our cable package, which is as basic and non-digital as you can get. This morning I took a walk down to our local Comcast office and asked why — and was told two untruths in two minutes:

  1. It was the fault of “Senator Markey” that C-SPAN2 was gone. Well, I have no proof to the contrary, but I’d say the idea that Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey was somehow responsible for a regulation that had banished C-SPAN2 from my basic Comcast line-up approached zero.
  2. The same guy told me that ESPN had discontinued ESPN Classic. Hmmm … uh, wait, here are today’s listings.

Comcast’s Web site continues to say that both stations remain in the basic line-up. In reality, C-SPAN2 is up in the 200s somewhere, and I would need a digital cable box to get it. Fortunately, if I want to watch it, I can do so online.

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  1. Brian F.

    Thank you, Dan. I never really watched those channels anyway but I felt that my removing them, Comcast was trying to “force” people to move to Digital. I refuse to do so – I already pay $53a month. You should report this guy for telling you these lies.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Brian: I’m not calling them “lies” because I don’t think he knew what he was talking about. ESPN Classic is probably somewhere on digital, yet he made no attempt to try to sell it to me. Not that I was buying.

  3. Local Editor

    Think that’s bad? In my area, Comcast took the TV Guide Channel off the non-digital tier. I know it’s not compelling TV, but it’s nice to have a place to go to see what’s on. Especially since the Globe’s listings are so godawful.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Local Editor: We don’t have them, either. I think the Comcast offerings are pretty much the same from place to place, except for local stations.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – be aware of something called the 70/70 rule (I think). Basically, once 70 percent of the country has cable access (goal reached), and 70 percent of those with access sign up for cable (goal in dispute), then cable will be adjudged de facto broadcast, and the FCC will begin to regulate it. One of the FCC’s main goals is to force cable to offer so-called ‘a la carte’ programming, where you will pick which 20 channels you want, free of packages.After the decision which will leave hundreds of New Englanders with no access to the Pats-Giants game next Saturday (unless you are within the Ch. 5 viewing area, you MUST buy digital sports package, and there are many areas – like Cape cod and Northern NH/ME where they don’t OFFER digital) this issue may heat up.

  6. Anonymous

    Dan,Never thought I would be glad to see Verizon but there may be a solution in the works. In Marshfield, we can now choose from TWO cable operators. C-Span2, non-digital program guide, we former Adelphia customers have the same gripes with Comcast.I actually have digital service on one TV but refuse to pay for multiple DVR/digital tuner boxes. If Comcast doesn’t get with the program soon, out they go, in favor of FIOS cable and internet.(And those cool trucks the kid talks about in the ad). BTW, did anyone else have problems with the signal during the Patriots/Dolphins game? My LCD flat screen was seizing up every 30seconds or so, as if a buffer was full or something. I’m told the hard drives on the DVR’s tend to die and do this? It got pretty irritating after about the 30th time. Was it my TV, my cable signal or the network? (I did hear another audio feedback Sunday, similar to the one that caused the controversy earlier in the season).

  7. Jon Garfunkel

    Seems like a la carte cable system would allow us customers to directly choose the channels we want. Since the Congress will never pass this legislation, and the FCC still doesn’t have the power to mandate this, the only thing to do is initiate an anti-trust lawsuit against Comcast; else cable customers can continue paying $850 million/year to Fox News

  8. Anonymous

    I AGREE COMPLETELY! (Down off the soapbox). C-Span is “paid for by the cable and satellite companies as a public service”! So, what’s the point, Comcast? We’re supposed to pay for public service? I sent an E-Mail to C-Span and did not get a response.Dan, we just had our cable box converted to digital, I assume to prepare for the HDTV conversion in 2009. We get some digital channels as part of the regular package, but not C-Span, which is somewhere between 230-250. You may be having your box switched at some point as well. (This “new regular package” has three WGBH digital channels carrying various PBS programs). If you are interested, Local Editor and others, you can get TV listings at and Both are slow to download but are very useful.grumble, grumble, grumble.

  9. O-FISH-L

    To Anon 12:47 PM:Yes, I was watching in HD with a Comcast digital box in Quincy and had the same problem with the signal seizing up. Whatever it was, it seemed to go away after half-time. The second half seemed fine.While we’re on the topic of Comcast, why is ESPN available in “low-def” but blacked out in hi-def unless one pays extra? That shouldn’t be legal.

  10. Suldog

    A couple of entries concerning Comcast (and, in the second one, RCN) that you might find interesting.*WARNING* The first is especially obscenity-laden.

  11. Anonymous

    One word (or maybe it’s two words):DirecTV

  12. Dan Kennedy

    DirecTV? Tempting, but no local access or community bulletin boards. And I’m pretty sure you can’t get New England Cable News, either, although that may have changed.

  13. Anonymous

    No NECN on DirecTV- its part-owned by Comcast, if I recall correctly

  14. Anonymous

    Since the reason Comcast is removing analog channels is to free up bandwidth for more HD content, I’m all for it, in theory. The fact that most of the HD content they’ve added lately is junk (I’m looking at you, TBS-HD, A&E-HD, and CNN-HD) is unfortunate, but beside the point.

  15. Bob Drake

    As a long-time C-span 2 viewer and book TV fan who is using RCN, I can report that RCN also moved C-Span 2 over to HiDef. Of course we picked up the umteenth religous channel in exchange.I am seriously considering going to FIOS, but am a bit reluctant having antecdotally had three neighbors all have to call Verizon back a second-time to “make it work”.

  16. jvwalt

    Here’s another one to watch from Comcast. In Michigan, it has used a loophole in state law to shift all the community-access channels into the 900s. You can only receive them with a digital box, which means (a) getting a new box if you’re on their basic service, and (b) paying a new fee per month for the box. And, of course, it also means much, much lower numbers for community access. Now, I know a lot of community access programming is pointless and amateurish, but there are also some valuable offerings. And when cable operators were getting franchises, CA was their token commitment to serving the local community in return for their license to print money. I’ve heard that Comcast is planning to do the same thing nationwide if they get away with it in Michigan. Almost makes me wish for the “good old days” of Adelphia. Yeesh.

  17. Rick in Duxbury

    JV, NOTHING about Adelphia was better. They installed FOUR separate systems to my house in Duxbury, each tech thinking the previous one was incompetent, without removing the “inferior” work. (My basement was a source of fascination for every plumber, electrician, etc. who entered it.) I would have admired their attempt at quality, had they not hit the jackpot on the fourth system. They failed to ground the feed at the pole. Lightning later struck it, traveled under my lawn, through my garage and house, frying electronics as it went. When I called Adelphia to inform them that they had done $10,000+ damage to my house and all the appliances, I was informed that they had filed for Chapter 11 protection and I was now an “unsecured creditor”. The coverage of the looting of the company by the CEO’s family only intensified my pain. ($5,000 Homeowner’s deductible in oceanfront towns these days.) If I never hear the word “Adelphia” again, I’m a happy guy.

  18. Bob Garfield

    dan,more on this and many other comcastic subjects at:,bob

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Bob — Yes, heard your interview with Brooke on this the other day. Thanks for checking in.

  20. Anonymous

    With all due respect to Garfield, now he knows how I feel about how my contributions and taxes are being used at NPR..

  21. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:55: Virtually no tax money goes to NPR. As for your contributions, if you don’t like what’s being done with them, why do you make them?

  22. Aaron Read

    Verizon FiOS is, if you can believe it…much, much worse than Comcast. Just check out the postings to that effect at ConsumeristIn my new digs in Rochester we have Time Warner Cable and I am highly unimpressed so far. That says something given how low the bar was set by Comcast.

  23. Anonymous

    Dan’s experience with Comcast is yet another reason why I’m so glad I dumped Comcast a year ago and got Dish Network. It’s nice to pay less than Comcast (or, when the Dish Network specials end, pay about the same as Comcast) and get more variety! It came in handy tonight, since I didn’t have to pay extra to see the Patriots/Giants game — and could avoid the CBS, NBC and WCVB onscreen bugs, and the incessant presidential commercials on WMUR.

  24. Anonymous

    RCN in the Boston area just discontinued the TVGuide channel, which, as you may know, broadcasts the programming guide for people who use that information with their recording devices (DVR). Gotta rent their set-top-box to get the guide, now. Last I checked, Congress passed legislation that forced the cable companies to offer cable cards as an alternative to the set-top-box, since people don’t need the box, it comes with yet another remote contol, and we’re forced to pay rental fees for the box. Isn’nt this illegal!

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