Comcast blistered over Facebook ad 'introducing' gigabit internet to Chattanooga

Comcast blistered over Facebook ad 'introducing' gigabit internet to Chattanooga

April 10th, 2017 by Staff Report in Business Around the Region

This March 29, 2017, photo shows a sign outside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. Comcast will start selling cellphone plans called Xfinity Mobile in the coming months, using a network it’s leasing from Verizon. Many subscribers will save money, especially if they don’t use a lot of data. The catch: Only Comcast internet customers can sign up. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

A backlash has erupted over a Facebook post made by Comcast's Xfinity brand, in which the company appears to say it's 'introducing' gigabit-speed internet to Chattanooga.

The text below the video advertisement reads, "Introducing Gig-speed Internet to the city of Chattanooga."

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"You guys realize that was already a thing ... right?," responded Patrick Alan Jaworski.

Chattanooga already has access to gigabit internet, and has for some time. Dubbed the "Gig City" by some organizations like the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga in 2010 was the first city in the western hemisphere to offer citywide gigabit service, courtesy of city-owned utility EPB.

Comcast didn't jump on the gigabit train until later, even filing a lawsuit in 2008 — which it lost — to block EPB from rolling out fiber to every home in the city.

But Comcast says the ongoing backlash is the result of a misunderstanding. The cable giant says that it didn't mean to imply it was rolling out the city's first gigabit service. Rather, it was introducing Xfinity's first gigabit service for residential customers.

"Comcast's recent advertisement on Facebook was intended to remind customers in Chattanooga that our 1-gigabit internet service is now available in their area," said Alex Horwitz, vice president for public relations at Comcast. "The service is offered via cable modem technology, which makes Chattanooga one of the first markets in the nation to enjoy this new service."

Horwitz said the service, which joins Comcast's existing two-gigabit internet offering, has been very well received by Chattanooga customers.

Reader feedback on Comcast's March 20 advertisement, however, which has been viewed more than 274,000 times, trended sharply toward the negative, despite the efforts of customer service representatives to move some conversations to a private channel.

One commenter named JD Baughman asked if Comcast would charge $69.99 for gigabit service like EPB does. Rather than answer publicly, a Comcast representative identified as Bayley asked Baughman to send a private message with his service address.

For a downtown Chattanooga residential address, Comcast does offer gigabit speeds at $70 per month, but only with a three-year agreement, according to Xfinity.com.

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"Hate to break it to you, Comcast, but EPB beat you to the finish line there bud," said Tim Bodenbender. "You should word your advertising more carefully, this is a deceptive ad. You aren't introducing anything to Chattanooga, you're stepping up to the plate and meeting the existing market demand."

Comcast faces an uphill battle in the Chattanooga market. EPB in 2015 — five years after rolling out gigabit service — displaced Comcast as the top telecom provider in Chattanooga, the utility said. Comcast disputes EPB's claim, saying it still offers service to more homes across greater Chattanooga than any other provider.

EPB says it passed the 75,000 subscriber mark in 2015. Comcast doesn't discuss the number of subscribers it has in the Chattanooga market, and measures its footprint differently from EPB.

"I think they're saying Xfinity is introducing it to finally catch up with EPB fiber optics," said Chattanooga resident Jordan Justice.

Comcast says it is continuing to invest in Chattanooga, calling the new rollout of the gigabit network "the latest important investment we have made in the region over the last several years," Horwitz said in a statement.

"These investments include a 10-gigabit network infrastructure to support the business community, and Gigabit Pro, our 2-gigabit service also available to residential customers," he said.

Contact Ellis Smith at 757-6315 or at esmith@timesfreepress.com.

Readers respond:

* Jason Schmurr: "Nope, Comcast is definitely not introducing gig-speed internet to Chattanooga. In fact, the only thing they have introduced was a lawsuit attempting to ban gig-speed internet from Chattanooga."

* Matthew Borden: "If I had the choice.... I'd still choose EPB. Unfortunately I am stuck with Comcast because they are the only provider in my area with broadband Internet access."

* Alixanderia Echbright: "I'd rather birth a cactus than deal with Comcast ever again. Gig speeds have been here for years, buck up."

* Scott Vandergriff: "The difference is EPB has no traffic throttling, no data cap and no "introductory" pricing. $69/month for straight unimpeded, symmetric gigabit fiber and it's been that way for years."

* Vince Cantrell: "Not sure why anybody would pay for Comcast over EPB. EPB has direct fiber to every house in Chattanooga, and has had gigabit for 7+ years already."

* Brent Tapio: "LOL, 'Introducing'? You guys have heard the term 'Gig City' used before right?"

* Patrick Alan Jaworski: "You guys realize that was already a thing ....right?"

* Steve Allen: "I'm glad I'm not the Comcast person that has to respond to all these comments."


This story was updated April 10 at 11:10 p.m.


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