If there's a war for most popular ISP in the United States, neither Comcast or AT&T are doing a very good job of winning it. Whether it's poorly-received Internet caps or the unpopular hiring of a former FCC official, something that didn't sit well with the Internet crowd, both companies have demonstrated a habit of really poor reputation management recently. Granted, as long as the judicial system continues to rule in their respective favor, it's doubtful either entities really care what the people think.
The most recent display comes courtesy of the Reel Grrls, a Seattle-based service that teaches empowerment to young women, via the creation of digital media. Their admirable service was the recipient of a Comcast grant to the tune of $18,000, a worthy donation for all involved. That relationship of goodwill was shattered, however, when the news of Meredith Attwell Baker's acceptance of a Comcast position, a move that many scoffed at, including the Reel Grrls.
The Reel Grrls took to their Twitter account to voice their displeasure over something they perceived as unethical with what amounts to as an awfully benign response, all things considered.
For Twitter, and, well, the Internet in general, that's about as mild as you can get. Nevertheless, Comcast was apparently offended and as a response, pulled the already-promised funding. The Washington Post expands the story:
Turns out that a Comcast executive in charge of sponsoring the Reel Grrls summer program was reading and wasn’t pleased. Last Friday, Comcast Vice President Steve Kipp wrote Reel Grrls an e-mail with a link to the tweet, saying the cable giant wouldn’t contribute the $18,000 it had promised for the film camp.
"I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter," Kipp wrote. The tweet "has put me in an indefensible position with my bosses. I cannot continue to ask them to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one."
Apparently, if you deal with Comcast, you have to approve of every little business decision they make or they'll cut you -- or your funding. Either/or.
Anyway, due to the subsequent outcry, Comast backtracked, saying it would like to continue its support of the Reel Grrls summer camp, and that Kipp had no authorization to pull the funding, something the Reel Grrls haven't made a decision about accepting. Their sticking point is being able to express themselves, regardless of any business arrangements. They also made a video as a response to Comcast's handling of the situation:
In the Post's article, Reel Grrls Executive Director Malory Graham offered this response:
We are pleased that the public debate on this issue has caused Comcast to reconsider this decision and hope to continue the discussion about how we can best ensure that corporations do not play a role in stifling free expression or limiting Americans’ access to information
And the Reel Grrls Twitter feed has been an explosion of thanks for all the support they've received:
Thank you 2 EVERYONE for standing with us & showing so much support! The community response has been overwhelming. Thank you!! #mediajustice
As to be expected, FreePress.org championed the Reel Grrls' cause, emailing and posting about Comcast's behavior. If you'd like to support the Reel Grrls and help save their upcoming summer camp, you can do so here.