Qwest Raps Comcast on Ad Policy - Multichannel

Qwest Raps Comcast on Ad Policy

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Comcast Corp. is "failing [a] test of public trust" by preventing Qwest Communication International Inc. from advertising its digital subscriber line service on Comcast cable systems, Qwest chairman and CEO Richard Notebaert said last week.

The telco executive is publicly criticizing the cable giant for its advertising policies, especially a ban on DSL-specific ad spots. Qwest spokesman Bill Myers said Notebaert learned about Comcast's ad policies only two weeks ago, during a market strategy session with Qwest's ad-sales team.

"He was shocked," Myers said, adding the telco CEO called Roberts to complain but got no response. He followed that up with a letter on April 28, which Qwest leaked to the press.

In the letter, Notebaert does not mention DSL specifically, but criticizes Comcast for refusing to accept commercial campaigns that promote services "that may even remotely compete with services you offer."

If this policy "isn't illegal, it should be," he swiped.

He accused Comcast of blocking consumers' ability to learn about choices and make an informed decision, and of censoring ads for competitive products.

Myers said Qwest sells ads in its Yellow Pages to Comcast, and uses Qwest's local-phone network to market to its customers.

"We're asking for the same rights and abilities," said Myers.

Comcast replies that its systems already accept Qwest advertising, including packages with DSL service.

But the cable systems do not accept DSL-specific spots, and pricing cannot be discussed during Comcast avails.

According to a Comcast Corp. ad sales memo provided to Multichannel News
by Qwest, DSL can be referenced in combination with local telephony, long distance, wireless and business-to-business applications.

Only 20% of the spot can be devoted to DSL and the copy must not criticize cable-modem products. Comcast has final say on commercials that make it to air.

Comcast is reviewing Qwest's letter, spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said.

Limits on messages by competitors are standard in the marketplace, he noted, adding Qwest has numerous advertising options on TV and other media in the 14 states in which the telco operates.

Myers replied that ads are ineffective if they can't list prices. "We're hopeful [Comcast] will determine this is unfair and anti-competitive," he said.

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