RealTime IT News

TCI Amends Acceptable Use Agreement

TCI@Home Network has repealed its highly- criticized cable modem user agreement less than two-weeks after attempting to introduce it.

@Home has produced a "plain English" clarification of the companies subscriber agreement. The original 9,000-word document that was e-mailed to about 40,000 @Home subscribers during the middle of February left cable modem users uncertain about their rights to privacy. It was also unclear whether they could check work e-mail from their home connection.

Subscribers were furious when @Home stated in their acceptable use policy that TCI might disclose to third parties personal information about their subscribers in the ordinary course of business.

The customer-criticized clauses have become null and void, since the reinstatement of the old acceptable use policy. A revised section of the user agreement states that "TCI does not sell mailing lists of TCI@Home customers, nor does it release individual TCI@Home customer information to third parties," without first obtaining the customer's consent.

The reinstated version also includes modifications to reflect the fact that customers can now purchase cable modems, rather than being forced to lease them from TCI.

Executives from both TCI and @Home said they never intented to alarm users or infringe on their customer's rights. The executives contend that explaining complex technological services in unambiguous legalese is often difficult.

Marcelo Halpern, a contract lawyer for Gordon & Glickson PC, said, "it used to be that the way you would protect people from over-reaching contracts was that the courts wouldn't enforce them."

"What you're seeing now in some of these cases is that the business moves so fast and the information circulates so quickly around and through the Internet that companies are afraid of having to weather a public relations storm. The competition is just too quick to step in and fill the void," Halpern said.

"Losing just a few customers on low-margin Internet products is a big risk and I think what you'll see is a lot of companies shying away from the traditional broad-reaching contracts."

When the TCI/@Home user agreement was first released, Jonathan Rosenburg, @Home's senior director of marketing, said the company had experienced a "degradation of service due in part to our lack of enforcing these policies. We are now being aggressive about enforcing these policies."

However, in an Monday's e-mail clarification to TCI@Home users, customers were told the mission of the revised user agreement was to reflect the fact that customers can now or soon may be able to purchase cable modems. TCI also said the agreement was aimed at enhancing customer privacy.

@Home cable modem user Scott Greczkowski said his cable modem access doesn't have anything to do with service degradation in Connecticut. In a lengthy conference call with TCI@Home executives last week, Greczkowski was informed that his service access speeds would not improve until a 5-Gig circuit is added to the network sometime early in April.

Greczkowski is a member of the Connecticut @Home Users Group that staged a protest concerning their service as a TCI/@Home enrollment promotion this past weekend.

TCI@Home company executives said they remain committed to protecting the privacy rights of our customers and to enforcing policies that uphold their trust.