Comcast rolls out domain "helper" service, with adverts

On Tuesday, internet provider Comcast announced it would be rolling out it's "Domain Helper" nationally, having trialled it before and reported great market success. The "Domain Helper" is aimed at assisting users who have mistyped website addresses by redirecting them to an "easy-to-use page with suggestions and links."

That's how Comcast have described their latest service anyway. But what Comcast describe as a "Domain Helper" has been referred to as DNS hijacking by others. Like many ISPs, Comcast now redirects their customers to a search page, but what they didn't mention in their blog post were the adverts that are on the page too, leading some customers to be less than happy with the new service.

Whilst it is possible for customers to opt-out, many have suffered delays in having the service removed. Furthermore, many customers were unhappy that they were not asked to sign up to the service, and instead had it added without their permission. Whilst Comcast claims to have sent emails to all it's customers explaining about the service and what it does, some customers claimed they never received these emails.

Comcast have created a website so that their users can opt-out, but it is only accessible by users of the network.

DNS redirection isn't new, many other ISPs, including Bell, Verizon and Orange do the same, and OpenDNS have even utilized it to block malware sites. However, it appears that the issue customers are having is the fact that the service was an opt-out service, as opposed to an opt-in one.

If you are a Comcast customer and want to try and remove the service, you can go here. You can also check out how well customers reacted to the news on Comcast's blog.

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Ahh, so that's why those D-bags changed my IP address earlier this week.

Good news is, if you had your DNS set manually (like I did) you will not have noticed the change because the Helper servers are new addresses.

Because it is so very annoying. You pay the (rather expensive) bills and they still see a need to force adverts to you.

nav1sk has a point, but it is worse. The Internet is more than the web. This makes every domain name resolution request succeed, even if there is no server out there, breaking the architecture of DNS. If I have an application that behaves differently in the face of a non-existent domain name, it will no longer work correctly in the presence of these servers.

These types of things are NEVER made with the users in mind. They are purely to generate revenue. That, alone, should be enough to alarm you.

Easy solution to both this and slow resolves, run your own DNS server that queries the root servers directly. Solved all my problems...

and why did some never recieve it? because comcast's very own spam filter caught their own notification e-mail! at least thats where I found the thing... in their own web client for e-mail under their junk mail filter folder..... so it was caught on their end by their own servers.... how dumb is that... white list your own domain sheesh

neufuse said,
and why did some never recieve it? because comcast's very own spam filter caught their own notification e-mail! at least thats where I found the thing... in their own web client for e-mail under their junk mail filter folder..... so it was caught on their end by their own servers.... how dumb is that... white list your own domain sheesh

Someone in their IT staff should be fired then...lol

neufuse said,
and why did some never recieve it? because comcast's very own spam filter caught their own notification e-mail! at least thats where I found the thing... in their own web client for e-mail under their junk mail filter folder..... so it was caught on their end by their own servers.... how dumb is that... white list your own domain sheesh

Lol...

I found out about it from a non-tech blog that I read occasionally and opted-out immediately.

neufuse said,
and why did some never recieve it? because comcast's very own spam filter caught their own notification e-mail! at least thats where I found the thing... in their own web client for e-mail under their junk mail filter folder..... so it was caught on their end by their own servers.... how dumb is that... white list your own domain sheesh

A little late on the draw for this one, but who the hell uses Comcast email? That's what gmail is for...

Ok so if I type gogle.com by mistake it is better that I get redirected to a malware site and they install Antivirus 2009 adware on my system? You people crack me up.

Your example is flawed. Their dns redirection is only about domain names that don't exist. If you mistype a url and this domain name is registered to a malware company, this won't do anything to help you.

On a side note, I sure hope they will NEVER start redirecting dns from properly registered domain names, even for the sake of "protecting" people. Think about it for a minute, if you ISP is allowed to send you wherever he wants when you want to go to Neowin, maybe it'll just decide one day that this forum is defamatory and that it is in its own right to redirect requests to Neowin to bell.ca/support/ .

Patchou said,
Your example is flawed. Their dns redirection is only about domain names that don't exist. If you mistype a url and this domain name is registered to a malware company, this won't do anything to help you.

On a side note, I sure hope they will NEVER start redirecting dns from properly registered domain names, even for the sake of "protecting" people. Think about it for a minute, if you ISP is allowed to send you wherever he wants when you want to go to Neowin, maybe it'll just decide one day that this forum is defamatory and that it is in its own right to redirect requests to Neowin to bell.ca/support/ .

Oh I'm sure the day that my ISP decides to do THAT is the day I start speaking to their legal department and the FCC. On that note my provider has long since done a search redirect based on opt-out policy rather than opt-in so this is nothing new. I have used OpenDNS for a long time though.

Patchou said,
Your example is flawed. Their dns redirection is only about domain names that don't exist. If you mistype a url and this domain name is registered to a malware company, this won't do anything to help you.

Not only that but google has already registered the common "typo" names are automatically redirects you to google anyway.

Double flawed argument

antareus said,
OpenDNS does this EXACT same thing. How can you advocate it?

You can disable it just like you can with Comcast's service.

Yeah RR has been doing this for several years. While it's slightly annoying for power users, you can turn it off so I don't see what the big deal is.

vvv As below, OpenDNS does the exact same thing.....

Watch Bell Like a hawk!
They have bought out atleast 61% of the following companies so they are co-branded as to not violate Anti Monopoly laws.
Virging Mobile Canada (Virgin Bell Mobility), Telus (Bell Telus) Aliant (Bell Aliant) Rogers (New name unknown, Fido, Koodo, and The Source (Bell) Electronics.
They hostile-take-over'ed BarbadosTel, and have their eyes on MTS and AT&T WorldWide...aka: AT&T
They also changed their name from BCE [Bell Canada Enterprises] to BE [Bell Enterprises], marking they plan for future global domination. The CRTC website is your friend.

I posted this 2x times on /. when the articled about Bell doing DNS "helping", and neither was posted...i wonder why... also...hmm... Bell and Comcast decide to do exactly the same thing at the same time... me thinks some one else was just bought out....I say good day to you!

tch1005 said,
Watch Bell Like a hawk!
They have bought out atleast 61% of the following companies so they are co-branded as to not violate Anti Monopoly laws.
Virging Mobile Canada (Virgin Bell Mobility), Telus (Bell Telus) Aliant (Bell Aliant) Rogers (New name unknown, Fido, Koodo, and The Source (Bell) Electronics.
They hostile-take-over'ed BarbadosTel, and have their eyes on MTS and AT&T WorldWide...aka: AT&T
They also changed their name from BCE [Bell Canada Enterprises] to BE [Bell Enterprises], marking they plan for future global domination. The CRTC website is your friend.

I posted this 2x times on /. when the articled about Bell doing DNS "helping", and
neither was posted...i wonder why... also...hmm... Bell and Comcast decide to do exactly the same thing at the same time... me thinks some one else was just bought out....I say good day to you!

Erm, since when did Bell buy out Rogers?

They bought out all of Rogers wireless, and third party companies. Give it a few months, and your Rogers bill will be co branded too.

I'm pretty sure that Bell hasn't bought Roigers or Telus. And they've pretty much been running Aliant for years.

Source, maybe?

The Aliant merger was signed in 2006, and they just completed a co-branding this year. The original intent was Bell to own 40 odd percent, but then they went and bought out all of the profit sharing shares, and snuck their way up past 50% and are now sitting at around 59%. Once they hit 61%, Aliant gets dropped, and it becomes "Bell".

Rogers' mobility and third party off-shoots were bought up a few months ago, and Rogers itself is on the radar.

Telus, in signing the agreement to sell "Bell TV" branded as (Telus TV) in Alberta entered them in to an agreement for buyout. A few people that I know are already getting co-branded mobility bills.

Again, the CRTC website is your friend, if you know where to look.

I am still trying to find the references, but I seen it in the middle of June on the CRTC website.

We're a country that's been complaining for years about the lack of competition in the mobile market. If Bell was trying to buy everyone out, then I imagine the government would step in, not to mention the outrage in the media and amongst the people.

This is outrageous. I can't stand Comcast as it is, this is just another tick on their **** scale if you ask me. The only reason I have them is because they are the only provider available in my area with half decent speeds.

Less than pleasant phone calls will ensue...

/edit/ and for the record, Comcast has never notified me of changes to service via email... on the rare occasion that they tell me anything, it's in tiny light-gray text on the back of the bill they send me.

vaximily said,
/edit/ and for the record, Comcast has never notified me of changes to service via email... on the rare occasion that they tell me anything, it's in tiny light-gray text on the back of the bill they send me.


Same here.

Charter Communications has been doing this forever, with advertisements. The ads themselves don't bug me too much (they're like Google Ads), but the "suggestions" are not what I was looking for, and it redirects you to a different URL for their search provider, leaving you to type the entire URL over again. It doesn't help me at all, it just inconveniences me.

Unfortunately, I noticed a week ago that my ISP, Bell, is now doing the same thing. Problems with ISPs trying to create their own little rules on the internet are piling up, I hope something will be done soon by the authorities to recognize internet as an essential service no company can freely temper with.