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Summary:

Mediacom, a regional cable provider and ISP that serves about 838,000 broadband subscribers, appears to be using a controversial technology known as deep packet inspection to insert advertisements on top of web sites its customers visit, according to a report from BroadbandReports.

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Mediacom, a regional cable provider and ISP that serves about 838,000 broadband subscribers, appears to be using a controversial technology to insert advertisements on top of web sites its customers visit, according to a report from BroadbandReports. The report accuses Mediacom of using deep-packet inspection technology and DNS redirection, which persist even if someone uses third-party DNS services, to track users and show ads on top of existing sites.

The site shows images of Mediacom takeovers of the Google and Apple sites, and offers confirmation grabbed from the site’s user forums. While I’ve reached out to Mediacom for comment, I haven’t heard back yet. From BroadbandReports:

Mediacom is literally intercepting website data and injecting their own code into websites in order to deliver ads where they weren’t intended. The technology isn’t new; if you recall Rogers was doing this back in 2007 in order to deliver ISP-specific messages using technology from Perftech. However, few ISPs have had the nerve to employ this technology for their own ads, given the inevitable backlash from consumers, ad networks, lawyers and potentially regulators.

The Free Press has already condemned the practice and has called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate. Are we about to revisit the Phorm and NebuAd debates of 2008 all over again? Given the rise of startups such as Kindsight and the return of Phorm, it seems DPI may be trying to stage a comeback with Mediacom’s help.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user dirac3000

  1. did GigaOm really just paint DPI with this broad of a brush? totally trollish article Stacey, FCC taking over the internet infintely more evil than anything of which Mediacom can even dream. shame on you, shame on Om, this is trash

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    1. Nelson, what are you talking about? I said DPI was controversial.That’s not inaccurate, nor is it trollish.

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  2. Stacey, thanks for highlighting this. Working in advertising, this is just disheartening to see. When service providers modify a site, overlying or replacing advertising on the site, they are leeching, serving (and in some cases selling) advertising on sites without the site seeing any portion of that revenue or benefit.

    If all ISPs started doing this, quality sites with advertising models wouldn’t be able to continue publishing, and with ads overlayed on sites by ISPs, it won’t be possible to sell an ad-free version of the site. Although I would like to see the online advertising industry move to sustainable self-regulation, if Mediacom doesn’t bend to industry pressure, this is an instance for government unfortunately needs to get involved.

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  3. [...] insane that over a week after the issue was first reported, Mediacom is still refusing to make an official comment about these [...]

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