Comcast: Clueless about the Internet

By firing the employee who posted a 17-year-old 'Today Show' clip, NBC's new owners once more show their ignorance over the Internet

You may have seen a video making the rounds this week: a clip from the 1994 "Today Show," featuring hosts Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel, and Elizabeth Vargas discussing this weird thing known as the Internet. Like, what that little "a" with the ring around it is for (@) and how it's pronounced (at? about? around?). Witness the sparkling dialog:

Bryant: "What is Internet anyway?"

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Katie: "It's that massive computer network, the one that's becoming really big now."

It's an amusing little clip that shows us just how far we've come in 17 years. Kudos to Katie for at least knowing something about the Internet in 1994, even as Bryant shows himself to be an empty suit. Why am I not surprised?

Apparently, NBC was not as amused -- so much so that it not only tried to wipe that video off the InterTubes, but also delete the employee who posted it. According to the Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro – or rather, his Twitter stream -- the as-yet-unnamed NBC employee who shared that video blast from the past on YouTube has been fired. Because if overpaid meat puppets didn't know anything about the InterWebs two decades ago, the terrorists will win.

Or maybe they wanted to bury all evidence of that truly frightening tie Bryant was wearing. That, I would believe. But seriously, NBC. Firing an employee? For posting that clip? Really?

It gets better. While someone with their panties in a vise was busy trying to hunt down all copies of that video on the Web -- as if that were even possible at this point -- someone else was rebroadcasting it on national TV and embedding it on their website.

That someone? Why, NBC's "Today Show," of course.

Here's my theory about what's going on, totally unencumbered by facts. Now that the FCC and DOJ have approved Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, the Comcasters are bringing down the hammer.

Consider the other evidence. Three days after the deal got the thumbs-up, Keith Olbermann abruptly departed MSNBC's "Countdown," though he's arguably that cable net's biggest star and certainly its driving force if it ever wants to become the left's answer to Fox News. No explanation is ever given. Did he jump or was he pushed? I'm guessing some Comcast muckety-muck did not much care for Olbermann's politics and/or his attitude.

In addition, Comcast canned NBC chief exec Jeff Zucker last September, shortly after the deal was signed, though some industry watchers claim that Zucker's departure was long overdue. Per the Los Angeles Times, more corporate culture shock is in store for the new residents of Kabletown (Comcast in Tina Fey's alternate "30 Rock" universe). I'm guessing whatever "Today Show" producer who reposted that video is adjusting to a new orifice as I type this.

Bottom line: Whoever got their knickers in a knot over this silly video clearly doesn't understand what the Internet is. Instead, they took a small story that had already died off and made it huge all over again -- while casting themselves as petty and stupid in the process. In any other industry, this would be embarrassing and worthy of mockery. But for Comcast, one of the nation's biggest ISPs, this is downright shameful.

At least we can look forward to what Tina has to say about it.

What do you think -- is Comcast really that clueless? Post your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "Comcast: Clueless about the Internet" was originally published at Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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