Comcast’s new “Domain Helper” is a service that serves up custom error pages when you mistype a domain name. For example, I typed in the nonexistant domain name, www.hwehresdfa.co, and was redirected to this page served by Comcast:
At its best, the services like this try to determine what you may have been looking for and provide links to relevant content. That is something that could be considered valuable.
However, in practice, that’s not what Comcast is doing. Instead, they’re serving up ads for their other services (as if I don’t get enough crap in the mail, phone calls, etc. from Comcast about those services already) AND attempting to redirect consumers to sites other than the one they were clearly looking for when they made the typo.
For example, here’s a forced Comcast error page for the typo “www.amazon.co”:
Notice that the first result in the middle of the page is not a link to amazon.com but an ad for a bookstore in Australia that sells books about the Amazon. Comcast is attempting to profit from people in the United States who mistype a popular book store’s trademarked name by misdirecting them to Australia through an ad.
This is not helpful. The error pages take longer to load than the ones my browser uses, irrelevant ads are served, and Comcast tries to shove their phone and TV services down my throat once again.
At a high level, the service sucks a few seconds of time out of millions of Comsact customer’s lives in an attempt to generate a few cents per click from ads.
It turns out that you can opt-out of the service you never asked for in the first place by filling out this form. Comcast’s solution to the problem they’ve created is to ask their customers to crawl on the floor to find the number listed on their cable modem. (No not that number. Not that one either. That one.)
I called Comcast to ask them about their new forced ad network. They said they informed me that they were going to start forcing ads on me at my useless comcast.net email address (Tip: Never use an email address associated with your Internet service provider). They suggested I log in to the account I’ve never used in order to read the email they sent. That doesn’t seem particularly helpful.
I asked if they could turn off the service while I was on the phone. Surely, they know the MAC address of the cable modem they’re renting to me. They refused.
I asked if they would give me a discount on my service to make up for the intrusiveness, dealing with opting out of a service that was forced on me, etc. No, they would not.
Since Comcast was unwilling to undo what they’ve done, I figured I’d share my frustrations here. If you figure out a way to get Comcast to maintain their Internet service at or above the level we agreed to when I started paying them, please let me know.
Comcast, here’s a quick tip on what “services” are: They’re things that provide value. Hijacking my Internet experience does not increase value. So take away the “service” or cut my costs. And stop bastardizing terms like service by using them for something that’s the opposite of what they are.