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Comcast is still forcing pop-up ads on customers to upsell its modems

JeepersMedia/Flickr (CC-BY)

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect yourself.

Days before the vote to end net neutrality, Comcast—the largest internet service provider (ISP) in the U.S.—is getting slammed for invading its customer’s web browsers to sell equipment.

We’ve known for years that the company stealthily manipulates its customer’s web pages, injecting pop-up ads directly into their browser to alert them of copyright infringements and potential security breaches. But last year, one customer was bombarded with Comcast pop-ups telling them to buy a new modem. Comcast claimed it wasn’t trying to upsell the customer, instead, the alert—with its big red “Action Needed” warning—was an “educational tool” letting them know their perfectly good modem was going to become outdated.

The shady practice received strong criticism at the time and was covered by multiple tech publications, including Gizmodo and Consumerist.

It now appears those complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Topping Reddit Monday morning is a link to Comcast’s Help and Support forum where one customer describes how the ISP added more than 400 lines of code to their web browser to pitch a new modem.

comcast pop-up ad modem Dave Trumbore/Twitter

“I just learned of this dispicable [sic] Comcast practice today and I am livid,” Comcast user  wrote in the post. “Comcast began injecting 400+ lines of JavaScript code in to pages I requested on the internet so that when the browser renders the web page, the JavaScript generates a pop up trying to up-sell me a new modem. When you call the number in the popup, they’re quick to tell you that you need a new modem, which in my case is not true.”

The user later explains that a “level-2” support member at Comcast said their modem was “perfectly fine” and didn’t need an upgrade. Previous reports say there’s no way for Comcast to disable these ads, which, unlike targeted ads you see from other companies, are added by injecting unsolicited code directly into your browser, “This is completely unacceptable to me and what’s worse is that Comcast provides no option to opt out of this horrific practice,” the furious customer wrote.

A Comcast Help and Support forum member 

The apparent spokesperson also claimed the pop-up isn’t an attempt to upsell a modem, but a notification telling users their hardware is nearing the end of its life. If that’s true, the warning may be used to notify customers that their aging hardware presents a security risk. Still, Reddit users, who recently united against the proposal to end net neutrality, are enraged that Comcast didn’t first try to reach out using conventional methods.

It doesn’t appear the use of these ads is linked to the impending death of net neutrality rules, though it’s understandably alarming for Comcast customers nonetheless. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect yourself: Add to your browser the HTTPS Anywhere extension, which automatically switches sites from the unsecured HTTP protocol to the more secure HTTPS.

We’ve reached out to Comcast to learn more and will update this article if we hear back.

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy

Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.