Comcast never sleeps

Last Sunday I posted a paranoid lament about Media Nation’s wireless- network problems, and wondered whether Comcast’s forced march to digital might somehow be responsible. As it turned out, my issues were easily solved (or would have been if I weren’t such a tech dolt) by replacing our old AirPort base station with a shiny new AirPort Express.

Before it was over, though, I had received comments from no fewer than two Comcast employees, assuring readers of Media Nation that their planet is a benevolent one whose inhabitants want nothing but the best for humanity. (See this and this.)

I didn’t think much about it until last night, when I saw a New York Times story, by Brian Stelter, on Comcast’s dogged efforts to track down negative blog posts and respond to them with warm and happy messages. Pretty interesting. Some bloggers told Stelter they found it “creepy.” I don’t, and I swear I’m not saying that just because I now know Big Daddy Comcast is looking over my shoulder as a type.

Some of the complaints about Comcast’s recent behavior are over a move I have only partly addressed — the company’s decision to shift MSNBC, CSPAN2 and several other channels to the digital tier, forcing customers who want those channels to get a digital box and pay a few more dollars each month. I did as I was told this past Monday.

There are critics who believe the move was made specifically to marginalize Keith Olbermann, whose “Countdown” program on MSNBC is the most outspokenly liberal talk show on television. This Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial, which I found on NewsTrust, attempts to make that case, and does a rather poor job of it.

Media Nation’s working hypothesis is that it’s always about the money. So when I appeared on Arnie Arnesen’s radio show earlier this week to talk about MSNBC, I was pleased to hear that she had hit upon a more likely theory: that Comcast had targeted MSNBC specifically to goad liberal viewers into upgrading and paying for more of those yummy Comcastic services.

This is the reverse of the “Let’s Censor Keith” theory. Rather, it’s “Let’s Use Keith to Choke More Money Out of Those Latte-Swilling, Prius-Driving Elitists.” She may be on to something. As a business proposition, it hits just the right middle ground. Move the SciFi Channel (or Comcast’s own CN8, which it did) and no one would notice. Move NESN, and thousands of torch-bearing Red Sox fans would storm the local Comcast office. Move MSNBC, though, and liberals would simply grumble and pay up.

And, Frank and Jim, I just want you to know that I would never, ever even look at Comcast Must Die, that nasty site maintained by that awful man Bob Garfield. Really. So please don’t take away my MSNBC again. Deal?

Photo (cc) by Steve Garfield, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Comcast paranoia

As many of you know, Comcast is in the process of messing things up even more than it normally does.

Weirdly enough, on Friday night the signal coming out of our ancient, coal-powered Airport base station suddenly dropped to the point where I had to drag my laptop into the same room in order to get a decent connection. I’ve done enough testing to convince myself that it’s the base station and not the laptop. The situation persisted throughout the day on Saturday.

Last night, the problem appeared to have healed itself. Early this morning, too. But now the signal is back to being ridiculously weak.

The family iMac, connected directly to the cable modem, does not seem to be affected.

Is anyone else experiencing this? Is my suspicion that it might be Comcast realistic, or does it stem from my near-total technological ignorance?

What Comcast hath wrought

According to this, C-SPAN is carrying the Democratic caucuses, and C-SPAN2 is hanging with the Republicans. So if you’re a Comcast customer — at least in my blighted suburb — you can watch the Democrats but not the Republicans. (Except online or if you pay extra for digital cable, of course.)

Funny, but I’ve never heard anyone accuse Comcast of liberal media bias.

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.