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Cable Technology Feature Article

December 01, 2010

Zoom Telephonics Files FCC Legal Complaint Against Cable Provider, Comcast

By Janet Li, TMCnet Contributor

Zoom Telephonics, Inc., a provider of modems and the second largest supplier of retail cable modems in the United States, filed a complaint against Comcast (News - Alert) at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The complaint charges that Comcast, the cable service provider in the US, has violated the FCC’s rules through an equipment certification program that restricts subscribers' right to attach cable modems to Comcast's network.

The complaint also notes that in addition to harming the competitive retail market for cable modems, Comcast's recently expanded retail modem testing regime and unilateral refusal to even test certain devices also violate Comcast's own public commitment to abide by the Commission's Open Internet principles.

While the FCC's (News - Alert) regulations implementing Section 629 of the Communications Act permit Comcast to restrict subscribers' ability to attach cable modems only to prevent such devices from causing harm to the network or facilitating theft of service, the vast majority of Comcast's Physical and Environmental (P&E) testing regime has nothing to do with either of these objectives, the complaint alleges.

Rather, the complaint alleges that Comcast's P&E testing regime contains a host of unreasonable, irrelevant, time-consuming, and costly requirements that curtail the availability of cable modems at retail outlets and thereby encourage subscribers to lease or rent cable modems directly from Comcast. These new standards, among other things, address a modem's weight, labeling, and packaging, as well as its physical appearance following the application of various substances, such as waxes.

They also require a cable modem to suffer no degradation in performance at temperatures far in excess of those generally found in the United States and well above the requirement for electronics equipment such as an iPad or a personal computer. Moreover, Comcast's new testing regime requires cable modem manufacturers to pay for Comcast personnel to conduct lengthy site inspections at the manufacturer's facility, with business class airfare and expensive hotels also paid for by the manufacturer.

"Comcast is clearly violating FCC rules designed to encourage an open, competitive market for cable modems at retail," said Frank Manning, Zoom's president and CEO, in a statement.

"This is especially dangerous given Comcast's position as the largest provider by far of cable modem service in the U.S. We cannot allow Comcast to use its certification process as a way to unfairly restrict consumer choice in cable modems. If Comcast's testing regime is allowed to stand, the availability of cable modems from retailers in the United States will be restricted; and that will affect anyone who wants to save money by buying a cable modem instead of leasing one from a cable operator, no matter which operator's service a customer uses," Manning continued.

Founded in 1977 in Boston, Zoom Telephonics designs, produces, markets, and supports communication products under the Zoom, Hayes, and Global Village brands.  

In related news, Zoom Technologies solidified its ZOOM brand by acquiring the URL domain name of zoom.com and significant Zoom Telephonics rights to the ZOOM logo and registered trademarks for China, and rebranding its growing and popular LEIMONE mobile phones to the ZOOM brand.

Janet Li is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard