Xfinity

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Comcast Cable Communications, LLC
Xfinity
Formerly
Comcast Cable (1981-2010)
Division
IndustryTelecommunications
FoundedApril 2, 1981; 37 years ago (1981-04-02)[1] (as Comcast Cable)
Key people
Dave Watson
(President & CEO)
Dana Strong
(President, Consumer Services)
Matthew Strauss
(EVP, Xfinity Services)[2][3]
ProductsCable television, Mobile, Broadband internet, VoIP phone, Home security
RevenueIncrease US$52.52 billion (2017)[4]
Increase US$21.17 billion (2017)[4]
Total assetsIncrease US$186.95 billion (2017)[4]
Total equityIncrease US$69.45 billion (2017)[4]
ParentComcast
SubsidiariesComcast Business
Comcast Spotlight
Comcast Wholesale
Xfinity Mobile
Websitewww.xfinity.com

Xfinity is a trade name of Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, a subsidiary of the Comcast Corporation, used to market consumer cable television, internet, telephone, and wireless services provided by the company. The brand was first introduced in 2010; prior to that, these services were marketed primarily under the Comcast name.

Its CEO is Dave Watson, its chairman is Brian L. Roberts, and its CFO is Catherine Avgiris.[5][2] Xfinity went from $23.7 billion in revenue in 2007[6] to $50.04 billion in 2016.[7]

Branding[edit]

Previous logos
Comcast logo from 1969 to 2000 before it was replaced with the crescent logo
A variation of the Comcast logo used between 2000 and 2012 as a corporate logo (and until 2010 for their cable unit)
Xfinity logo used from 2010 to 2017

In February 2010, Comcast began to re-brand its consumer triple play service offerings under the name Xfinity; Comcast Digital Cable was renamed "Xfinity TV", Comcast Digital Voice became "Xfinity Voice", and Comcast High Speed Internet became "Xfinity Internet". The re-branding and an associated promotional campaign were scheduled to coincide with the 2010 Winter Olympics.[8][9]

The rebranding was characterized by the media as an effort to sidestep the negativity of the Comcast brand.[10][11][12] Time considered Xfinity to be among the worst corporate renamings of all time, asking "Will the name change work? Probably not, but at least it'll sound a bit edgier when you're put on hold...with Xfinity."[13]

Internet service[edit]

Comcast Internet availability by state[edit]

Comcast availability map by ZIP Code
State Percentage of State's Population With Access to Comcast[14]
District of Columbia 97.9%
Massachusetts 85.4%
Utah 78.5%
Illinois 75.9%
Colorado 75.9%
Washington 73.1%
Pennsylvania 69.1%
Maryland 69%
New Hampshire 68.8%
Michigan 60.3%
Oregon 57.9%
Indiana 57.7%
Georgia 56.4%
Tennessee 56.0%
New Mexico 55.4%
Florida 52.7%
Connecticut 50.6%
Minnesota 45.6%
Virginia 41.5%
Mississippi 31.9%
California 31.8%

Comcast is the largest provider of cable internet access in the United States, servicing 40% of the market in 2011.[15] As of July 26, 2018, Comcast has 26.5 million high-speed internet customers.[16] Comcast began offering internet services in late 1996, when it helped found the @Home Network, which sold internet service through Comcast's cable lines. The agreement continued after @Home's merger with Excite.[17] When the combined company Excite@Home filed for bankruptcy in 2002, Comcast moved their roughly 950,000 internet customers completely onto their own network.[18]

Along with the price of internet subscriptions, Comcast charges users an additional $11.00/month to rent a cable modem.[19] This fee has been seen by some as unfair,[19][20] but is waived for customers who buy their own modems.[21] Comcast charges $20 for internet installation,[22] but the fee is waived for customers who opt to install themselves.[23]

In 2011, Comcast launched its "Internet Essentials" program, which offers low-cost internet service to families with children who qualify for free or reduced price school lunches. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required this budget service as a condition for allowing Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal in January 2011.[24] Of an estimated 2.60 million households eligible for the program, about 220,000 households participate in the program as of June 2013.[25][26][27] A similar program is available from other internet providers through the non-profit Connect2compete.org.[27][28] Comcast has stated that the program will accept new customers for a total of three years.[24] In March 2014, as he met with FCC concerning the Time Warner Cable merger, Comcast vice president David Cohen told reporters that the internet essentials program will be extended indefinitely.[29]

At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, Comcast unveiled a new software platform for its Arris 1682G and Cisco 3941T/3939 modems, which would offer a redesigned configuration interface, support for remote setup and management via an Xfinity mobile app, and enabling integration of supported smart home devices with other Xfinity platforms such as Xfinity TV. The new platform launched under the brand xFi in May 2017. Comcast also unveiled the xFi Advanced Gateway, a new router designed to facilitate faster Wi-Fi speeds, including support for 802.11ac Wave 2, as well as internal support for Bluetooth Low Energy, Thread, and Zigbee for finer integration with Internet of things devices, and support for an accompanying line of Wi-Fi extenders (manufactured by Plume).[30][31][32][33]

Xfinity WiFi[edit]

Comcast operates a network of public Wi-Fi hotspots for Xfinity internet subscribers known as Xfinity WiFi, which consists of a mixture of hotspots installed in public locations and businesses, and those generated by supported Xfinity home gateways on an opt-out basis. Users on the "Performance" tier or higher receive unlimited usage of these hotspots after signing in with their Xfinity Account. By default, all dual-band Xfinity home gateways operate both a private network, and a public network with the SSID "xfinitywifi". To conserve bandwidth, these hotspots are capped at 5 simultaneous users. Customers can opt out of providing Xfinity WiFi through either the Comcast website, or by installing a third-party router.[34][35]

Comcast has received criticism for this practice, with critics arguing that the company was abusing customer resources (including bandwidth and electricity) to provide services for other customers, as well as concerns regarding security, and liability for actions performed by users while connected to these home hotspots; in 2014, a proposed class action lawsuit was filed in California, citing violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and similar state laws for these reasons. Comcast defended the service by stating that the public Wi-Fi is firewalled from devices connected to the in-home network, was designed to have minimal bandwidth impact to "support robust usage", and that customers would not be liable for the actions of other users, as abusers can be traced by means of the Xfinity account they used to sign into the network.[36][37] The lawsuit was taken to arbitration.[38]

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, all Xfinity WiFi hotspots in Florida were opened to non-Comcast subscribers.[39]

Data cap[edit]

Initially, Comcast had a policy of terminating broadband customers who use "excessive bandwidth", a term the company refused to define in its terms of service, which once said only that a customer's use should not "represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an overly large burden on the network".[40] Company responses to press inquiries suggested a limit of several hundred gigabytes per month.[41][42] In September 2007, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the company defined "excessive use" as the equivalent of 30,000 songs, 250,000 pictures or 13 million emails in a month.[43]

Comcast introduced a 250 GB monthly bandwidth cap to its broadband service on October 1, 2008,[44] combining both upload and download towards the monthly limit. If a user exceeded the cap three times within six months, the customer's residential services may have been terminated for one year.[45] A spokesperson stated that this policy had been in place for some time, but was the first time Comcast has announced a specific usage limit.[46]

As the cap provoked a strongly negative reaction from some,[47] Comcast decided to modify its policy in 2012. Under the new system, the cap was increased to 300GB in some markets, and consumers who exceed this limit are charged $10 for every 50 GB above the limit.[48][49][50] Customers could purchase a $30 add-on for "unlimited" data.[51] In a leaked memo, Comcast employees were instructed to state that the policy is for "Fairness and providing a more flexible policy to our customers", and not for controlling network congestion.[50]

On April 27, 2016, Comcast announced that it would raise its data cap in trial markets to 1 TB by June 2016; the company stated that "more than 99 percent of our customers do not come close to using a terabyte." The decision to raise the cap came following an implication of increased scrutiny surrounding them by the FCC: in its approval of Charter Communications' purchase of Time Warner Cable, the Commission stipulated that Charter must not implement caps. As previously, a $10 overage fee is charged for every 50 GB above the limit, and customers can purchase an add-on for "unlimited" data, but its price was increased to $50.[51] In October 2016, Comcast announced that bandwidth caps would be implemented in the majority of its markets (outside of New York and the northeast) beginning November 1, 2016.[52] The data usage plan does not currently apply to the Gigabit Pro tier of service, Business Internet customers, customers on Bulk Internet agreements, and customers with Prepaid Internet.[53]

Network management and peering[edit]

In September 2007, a rumor emerged among tech blogs that Comcast was throttling or even blocking internet traffic transmitted via the BitTorrent protocol.[54] Comcast vehemently denied the accusations of blocking traffic, stating that "Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services", and that "We engage in reasonable network management".[55] After more widespread confirmation that Comcast was throttling BitTorrent traffic,[56] Comcast said it occasionally delayed BitTorrent traffic in order to speed up other kinds of data, but declined to go into specifics.[57] Following the announcement of an official investigation by the FCC,[58] Comcast voluntarily ended the traffic discrimination.[59] The FCC investigation concluded that Comcast's throttling policies were illegal.[60] However, after filing a lawsuit in September 2008,[61] Comcast overturned the illegality of its network management in 2010, as the court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to enforce net neutrality under the FCC's then current regulatory policy. The court suggested instead of its current framework, the FCC move to a common carrier structure to justify its enforcement.[62] As of February 2014, the FCC has announced a new justification,[63] but avoided the more extensive regulation required by the common carrier framework.[64]

In 2010, Netflix signed an agreement with Level 3 Communications to carry its data. Shortly after, Level 3 entered a heated dispute concerning whether Level 3 would have to pay Comcast to bridge their respective networks, in an agreement known as peering.[65] The disagreement continued as Netflix's current carrier, Cogent Communications, explicitly placed blame for Netflix bottlenecks on Comcast and several other ISPs.[66] In February 2014, after rumors surfaced that Comcast and Netflix had reached an unspecified agreement,[67] the companies confirmed that Netflix was paying Comcast to connect to its network.[68] The details of the agreement are not public,[69] and speculation disagrees about whether the agreement is a precedent against net neutrality, or a continuation of normal peering agreements.[70]

Land line telephone[edit]

Xfinity Voice (formerly Comcast Digital Voice) is a landline telephone service that was launched in 2005 in select markets,[71] and to all of Comcast's markets in 2006. Comcast's older service, Comcast Digital Phone, continued to offer service for a brief period, until Comcast shut it down around late 2007.[72] In 2009, after completing transition from their old service, Comcast had 7.6 million voice customers.[73] As of the end of 2013, Comcast Digital Voice had reached 10.7 million subscribers.[74]

At the start of 2012, Comcast stood as the United States' third-largest residential telephone provider.[75] At that time the company supplied 9.34 million residential telephone lines.[75]

Xfinity Voice allows communication over the internet using VoIP, but uses a private network instead of a public IP address, which allows Comcast to prioritize the voice data during heavy traffic. In technical terms, on Comcast's Hybrid Fiber Coaxial network, calls are placed into individual Unsolicited Grant Service flows, based on DOCSIS 1.1 Quality of service standards. For the customer, this has the benefit of preventing network congestion from interfering with call quality. However, this separation of traffic into separate flows, or Smart pipe, has been seen by some as a violation of net neutrality, who call instead for equal treatment of all data, or dumb pipe.[76] Other, non-Comcast VoIP services on Comcast's network must use the lower priority public IP addresses. The practice was questioned by the FCC in 2009.[77] In their response, Comcast stated that services that use telecommunications are not necessarily telecommunications services, and noted the FCC's current designation of Comcast Digital Voice as an information service exempted it from telecommunications service regulations. Comcast also said that because Comcast Voice was a separate service, it was unfair to directly compare the data for Comcast Voice with the data for other VoIP services.[78][79]

Because telephone services over VoIP are not automatically tied to a physical address, Xfinity Voice utilizes E911 to help 911 service operators to automatically locate the source of the 911 call.[80] Voice calls are delivered as a digital stream over the Comcast network, signal is converted to analog plain old telephone service lines at the cable modem, which outputs on standard analog RJ-11 jacks.

Cable television[edit]

Comcast's cable television customers peaked in 2007, with about 24.8 million customers.[81] Comcast had lost customers every year since 2007, with the first quarterly gain in customers since their peak occurring in the fourth quarter of 2013.[82] As of the end of 2013, Comcast serves a total of 21.7 million cable customers.[83] The average cost Comcast's Digital Basic cable subscription has increased 72% from 2003 to 2012.[84] In Q4 2015, Comcast added 89,000 new video subscribers which was their best result in 8 years.[85]

In addition to the prices of subscriptions, since July 2012, Comcast charges a Regulatory Recovery Fee of varying size in order to "recover additional costs associated with governmental programs."[86] Beginning in January 2014, Comcast also charges a Broadcast TV Fee to "defray the rising costs of retransmitting broadcast television signals."[87]

In May 2012, Comcast soft launched X1 (codenamed "Xcalibur"), a new hardware and software platform for its television services, in Boston. It provides more extensive support for integrated internet content, as well as apps for video streaming services, and a remote control that accepts voice recognition input. It was scheduled for a wider, nationwide availability by the end of 2013.[88][89][90][91]

Retransmission fees[edit]

Beginning in the mid-2000s, television stations increasingly required cable companies like Comcast to pay retransmission fees in exchange for permission to broadcast their content.[92] (Historically, TV broadcasters made money almost exclusively through advertising.) These fees have been the subject of heated negotiation between broadcasters and distributors, with a few high-profile blackouts prompting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to publicly express serious concern in 2011.[93] Comcast has ten year agreements with CBS[94] and Disney,[95] as well as deals with Fox[96] and others, but the financial details of these deals are not public.

Since the rise of retransmission fees, distributors like Comcast pay substantial fees for retransmitting broadcast television, which is free over the air for consumers. Comcast has instated a $1.50 Broadcast TV Fee to cover part of the cost of getting permission from stations to retransmit the free stations, itemized separately for consumers. Comcast's subsidiary, NBCUniversal, was one of several broadcasters party to American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, Inc., over the question of whether Aereo is a retransmitter (which would require it to pay retransmission fees).[97] The case was decided on June 25, 2014 in favor of the broadcasters in a 6-3 decision.[98]

Home security and automation[edit]

Comcast offers a home security and home automation service known as Xfinity Home, in some of its service areas. This service provides residential customers a monitored burglar and fire alarm, surveillance cameras, and home automation. Critics of their technology found that "thieves can easily undermine the system to trick homeowners into thinking they’re protected when they’re not."[99] Wired magazine reported the vulnerability has the potential to attract thieves, quoting security expert Tod Beardsley: "The sign that is designed to deter attackers can now become a sign that invites attackers.[100]

Cellular service[edit]

Xfinity Mobile.svg

On April 6, 2017, Comcast announced a wireless service branded as Xfinity Mobile, which is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) using the Verizon Wireless network. The service provides capped (beginning at 1 GB, with additional gigabytes purchasable) and "unlimited" data plans, along with access to Xfinity WiFi hotspots. Comcast promotes Xfinity Mobile as being part of a quadruple play with its other services; analysts perceived the offering as being a response to AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV to add the national satellite provider alongside its existing wireline and wireless services, and an increased push towards mobile television.[101]

Comcast Business[edit]

In addition to residential consumers, Comcast also serves businesses as customers, targeting small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and mid-sized businesses of 20–500 employees.[102] In 2009, Minneapolis–Saint Paul became the first city in which Comcast Business Class offered 100 Mbit/s Internet service, which includes Microsoft Communication Services.[103] Comcast Business Class Internet service[104] does not have a bandwidth usage cap.[105][106]

Comcast Business services used to be sold exclusively through direct sales employees. In March 2011, Comcast created an indirect sales channel called the Solution Provider Program, a comprehensive indirect channel program that enables telecommunications consultants and system integrators to sell Comcast's services such as Business Class Internet, Voice, and high-capacity Ethernet services to small and mid-market businesses. The program offers recurring commissions for sales partners based on monthly revenue, and Comcast will provide, install, manage and bill for these services. For the initial launch of the Solutions Provider Program, Comcast enlisted three national master representatives—Telarus, based in Salt Lake City, Utah; Intelisys, based in Petaluma, California; and Telecom Brokerage Inc (TBI), based in Chicago. Sub-agent sales partners must work with one of these three partners in the early stages of the program.[107]

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