Comcast selling subscriber information? (Among other FX ups)

After living at the same address in Arlington, Virginia for more than eight years, I've moved out to Sterling, Virginia.

I had phone service with Starpower and later with Cavalier. I dislike dealing with Verizon and they're not offering FIOS where I've moved, so I decided to get service with Comcast. So I ordered Triple Play, which is phone, internet and cable tv in one package. (Previously I got phone and internet from Cavalier and TV from Dish Network).

Comcast promises installation a week after I called. A 9am-12 installation, which is important because one of the other housemates at the place I am renting works nights, so it's important it is early so as not to disturb his sleep. Installer doesn't show up until three, and that's only because I called probably 1/2 a dozen times, on my cell phone. (For those interested, the entire story is in three articles on my blog at

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And the Comcast technician doesn't have all the equipment to do the install correctly (one of the other people here wanted HD with a DVR), and they're supposed to install 3 outlets, so now I have to wait until September 4 to get the install finished. And they didn't give me the information to properly access the Internet; I had to call up and find out the username and password for my service so I could access Usenet Newsgroups.

Also, after they had done the install, around 9pm someone from Comcast called because they had also promised the phone number they gave me to someone else and wanted to know if I'd be willing to change numbers if he wouldn't. Well, it turned out he was willing so my new number didn't change.

But here's the kicker. Got a call - on the new phone - the other day from the Washington Post asking me if I wanted to subscribe. Well, maybe that's reasonable but it begs the question as to how they knew. I doubt my phone was listed with directory assistance that fast, and even if it was, how come this never happened over the eight years I've had phone service with two different companies, including being listed in the phone book for more than five years?

Also, today, while I was taking a nap, I got a call by name on the house line, which a housemate took, in which some company was offering to send me three magazines "for free" but apparently required a $3.00 fee for something or other, I'm not sure. But the telemarketer on the phone has the gall to specifically ask to speak to me, by name! Now, at first I thought it was some of the magazines that I currently subscribe to (where I used to live), and was changing my address on, except that either I'd not given them my phone number or I'd have given them my cell phone number. In fact, there is no reason for me to give any of the magazines I get in the mail my phone number, they don't need it.

So, it stands to reason that in addition to the not-very-good service Comcast has so far provided - the cable TV works okay on the one outlet (which the guy left a mess behind; see my blog for all the details), web surfing does work and the phone will work even if there is no electrical power supplied to their telephone converter box - Comcast is also selling customer information! Look, when asked if I wanted my number listed, I said that was fine; I didn't say it was okay to sell my information to every tom-dick-and-harry marketer in the country!

Because if Comcast didn't sell my information, how the hell does some telemarketer know my name on a phone number I've only had for less than

5 days and haven't given out to anyone selling anything?

So this is yet another thing that Comcast FX up on. (There is a group called "Truth" running ads mentioning comments by tobacco companies about how other products (like milk) are more dangerous than their (clearly lethal) products. The group refers to its ads as "What the FX up?". So I'm using that term instead of the profane word to refer to their (mis)operation.)

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Paul Robinson
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Back in 1987 I moved to a new apartment in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and promptly had two phone lines (one for me, one for my modem ) installed. That very day, I received a phone call from a family member. When I asked how they got my number since Bell Canada had only connected it that day and had neglected to let me know that it had been connected or even what my own telephone number was(!), I was told that my number was already available from directory assistance.

However, what are the chances that the Washington Post's telemarketer had your name and knew that you were moving? (Since they were calling to ask if you were interested in subscribing, it seems unlikely that you had sent them a change of address card.)

I don't think that telemarketers use the phone book; predictive dialers have been discussed extensively here. Maybe you just got lucky that day. And maybe you were lucky (in the true sense of the word) for the past eight years.

Although past experience inclines me not to give any company the benefit of the doubt, it may not have been Comcast: I seem to recall vaguely that there are other ways to find out when someone moves into a neighbourhood, possibly through the Post Office triggered by people filing mail forwarding requests. Does anyone know if this is so? If yes, then is it only Canada Post that does this, or does the U.S. Postal Service also?

Here in Ontario (Canada, not California) we have a campaign to conserve electricity called "FLICK OFF" (capitals used intentionally; check out their logo at

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I think that's what you should tell whoever did sell your information.

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