The invisible hand of the market to smush together two enormous turds (Comcast and Time Warner), creating an even larger and more profitable mega-turd

corporategreedpus2

Comcast, the nation’s largest provider of cable and internet service, as well as the world’s largest media company, made clear their intention today to purchase Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable company in the United States. Assuming the $44 billion deal is allowed to move forward by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which is all too likely, given the tens of millions of dollars Comcast spends each year on lobbying, and the fact that they’re known to hire the sons, daughters and spouses of those individuals who have the power to make such decisions, this would mean that as many as two-thirds of all U.S. households would likely become customers of the communications behemoth.

I know what you’re thinking… “It’s true that, year after year, Comcast is ranked as one of the least liked entities in America, often even beating the IRS, but maybe it’s competition that’s been holding them back. Maybe, if they didn’t have to worry about Time Warner nibbling away at their market share, they could focus on those things that really matter, like customer service. And, maybe, once they have two-thirds of all Americans as customers, they’ll achieve an economy of scale that would them to drop their rates a bit, so they’re no longer among the most expensive in the entire world.” And, yes, that all makes perfect sense. But, what if, despite the rhetoric, they don’t really have the best interests of the American public in mind? I know it’s unthinkable, but what if they’re only interested in maximizing shareholder value? What if, when CEO Brian Roberts said that this newly proposed move was “pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and strongly in the public interest,” he was lying? If that were the case, wouldn’t this be incredibly bad for all of us? Without competition, wouldn’t they in fact be less inclined to invest more in customer service, or pass savings along to their customers? If they’re not doing it now, it is really safe to assume that things will change absent competition?

ComcastCEOscumbag2Here, with more on this nightmare scenario, is a clip from today’s New Yorker.

…(Y)ou have to give its C.E.O., Brian Roberts, some marks for chutzpah. In announcing Comcast’s intention to swallow up Time Warner Cable, the second-biggest cable company in the country, he brushed aside concerns that the regulators and anti-trust authorities might veto the deal, describing it as “pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and strongly in the public interest.”

As you digest these words, it is well to set them in a broader perspective. As residents of the country that came up with Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Internet, we like to think that we lead the world in communications and entertainment. And we’re certainly ahead in one way: we pay far more for broadband Internet access, cable television, and home phone lines than people in many other advanced countries, even though the services we get aren’t any better. All too often, they are worse.

Take the “triple-play” packages—cable, phone, and high-speed Internet access—that tens of millions of Americans buy from companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In France, a country often portrayed as an economic and technological laggard, the monthly cost of these packages is roughly forty dollars a month—about a quarter of what we Americans pay. And, unlike in the United States, France’s triple-play packages include free telephone calls to anywhere in the world. Moreover, the French get faster Internet service: ten times faster for downloading information, and twenty times faster for uploading it…

Why are things so different, and so expensive, in the United States? There are various answers, but by far the most important ones are competition and competition policy. In countries like the U.K., regulators forced incumbent cable and telephone operators to lease their networks to competitors at cost, which enabled new providers to enter the market and brought down prices dramatically. The incumbents—the local versions of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T—didn’t like this policy at all, but the regulators held firm and forced them to accept genuine competition. “The prices were too high,” one of the regulators explained to the media writer Rick Karr. “There were huge barriers to entry.”

That quote accurately describes the situation in the United States today, where vigorous competition is almost non-existent. In some big cities, broadband consumers have a choice between a cable operator, such as Comcast, and a telephone provider, such as Verizon. But that’s practically no choice at all. Although the cable and telephone companies spend huge sums of money on advertising trying to lure each others customers, they rarely compete on price. To use the economic jargon, they act as a cozy “duopoly,” keeping prices well above their costs…

What we need is a new competition policy that puts the interests of consumers first, seeks to replicate what other countries have done, and treats with extreme skepticism the arguments of monopoly incumbents such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable. But will we get it? Under President Obama, the anti-trust division of the Justice Department has nodded through a number of dubious mergers, the most recent of which was the takeover of US Airways by American Airlines. The new head of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is a former lobbyist for two sets of vested interests: the cell-phone operators and, you guessed it, the cable companies…

I think you get the picture… We’re about to be force-fed a mega-turd.

Putting aside all of the obvious stuff, about how we’re getting fucked, and how insulting it is for the CEO of Comcast to pitch this a pro-competition, when it’s actually the exact opposite of that, this is bad for American business, and I have to imagine that people on the right know that. What tech companies would want to be in America when they could be any number of other places, where internet connections are not only lightening fast, but affordable. Comcast has a stranglehold on America and its tightening its grip. Not only should we not allow this merger to happen, but we should take this opportunity to have an open debate on the future of our country, and whether its responsible to allow one corporation to have so much power over what information we consume, and how we consume it. My hope is that Comcast just opened a can of worms that proves to be their undoing.

[note: The title of this piece was inspired by a comment left on Reddit by someone using the handle YSCapital. He said “smash,” though. And I prefer “smash.”]

[note: For more on media consolidation, and the threat it poses to the future of our democracy, see Freepress.net.]

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34 Comments

  1. WW
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    They can’t help themselves. They’re greedy. They’re going to push too far and they’re going to lose everything. People can only take so much.

  2. K2
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I’m growing weary of the invisible hand smacking my ass.

    The relentless fucking will never stop.

  3. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Don’t pay full price. They offer deals for new customers at significantly lower cost. Call and ask them how long you have to stay away before you qualify as a new customer. Tell them you can get an incredible deal from another provider. You’d be amazed at how quickly they will slash your monthly bill. Or switch to satellite TV. Direct TV has great customer service.

  4. Posted February 14, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    How about abandoning television altogether?

  5. anonymous
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    “Tell them you can get an incredible deal from another provider.”

    Can you read, EOS? They’re proposing that they buy their only other significant competitor.

  6. anonymous
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    COMCAST: Hello.
    EOS: I want to pay less.
    COMCAST: No.
    EOS: I’m going to get an incredible deal from another provider.
    COMCAST: Which provider would that be?
    EOS: Uhhh…..
    COMCAST: Right. So shall I sign you up for Triple Play? It’s only $250 a month right now.

  7. anonymous
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Also, this isn’t just about television, Peter. This is about the internet. This is about allowing one firm to have a stranglehold on information.

  8. Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I get that, but it can’t be denied that television still plays a major role in their business model.

    I just don’t understand why people bother with TV at all anymore, unless they’re unemployed or retired, in which case they shouldn’t be spending money on it anyway.

    I just dislike TV. It’s a depressing black hole of anti-culture.

    Internet is a huge problem in the States. I pay more for internet access here in the States than I do in Kenya, and get worse service and the terms are far more inflexible. Clearly, this merger will make the situation worse.

  9. Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I like EOS’ silly and unrealistic proposal. That made me laugh.

  10. Eel
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Maybe EOS is going to threaten to put them out of business by making his own content, like Glenn Beck.

    EOS: “Tell you what. I’ll pay $25 a month, and if you don’t like it, I’ll start making my own programming in my basement.”

  11. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I haven’t used Comcast for 15 years and I haven’t paid full price for phone, internet, or TV for the past 10. They suck. There’s lots of phone and internet provider choices, and satellite TV is significantly better. Tell them if they don’t give you a better deal, you will take the intro offer from another company. They will lower the price, sometimes only for 6 months. When they raise it again, call them back. You don’t have to believe me. Just keep paying whatever they ask and see where that gets you.

  12. Eel
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Now that you’re back, EOS, will you weigh in on the Michael Sam post? I’ve been waiting for your insight on the threat homosexuality poses to the game of football.

  13. Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I had to pay for television for a year when I inherited my grandmother’s condo.

    I tried watching it for a week, then just gave up on it. What an amazing waste of time and energy.

  14. anonymous
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    If you have the time, EOS, I’d also like your thoughts on this post:

    http://markmaynard.com/2014/02/the-successful-campaign-to-stop-the-ice-deportation-of-ann-arbors-jose-luis-sanchez-ronquillo/

    I kept coming back to the site for two days, hoping that you’d weigh in on “illegal aliens” and “anchor babies” but you never did.

    For what it’s worth, I’m serious. I was really interested to hear what you had to say.

  15. Meta
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    From the organization Public Knowledge:

    The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney:

    “Comcast cannot be allowed to purchase Time Warner Cable. Antitrust authorities and the FCC must stop it.

    “If Comcast takes over Time Warner Cable, it would wield unprecedented gatekeeper power in several important markets. It is already the nation’s largest ISP, the nation’s largest video provider, and one of the nation’s largest home phone providers. It also controls a movie studio, broadcast network, and many popular cable channels. An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content. By raising the costs of its rivals and business partners, an enlarged Comcast would raise costs for consumers, who ultimately pay the bills. It would be able to keep others from innovating, while facing little pressure to improve its own service. New equipment, new services, and new content would have to meet with its approval to stand any chance of succeeding.

    “What’s more, it is simply dangerous for a large proportion of our nation’s critical communications infrastructure to be in the hands of just one provider.

    “TV viewers, Internet users, and everyone who depends on a well-functioning communications marketplace would not benefit from an even more powerful Comcast. Fortunately, the regulators and law enforcement agencies who must approve a deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable are empowered to promote the public interest, not Comcast’s interest in empire-building. We call on them to protect the public and stop this deal.”

    Read more:
    http://publicknowledge.org/public-knowledge-statement-comcast-time-warner-cab

  16. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    If Michael Sam can play football with a high skill level, then a team will pick him up. If he wants to be the poster child for a sinful behavior and create a media circus surrounding his sexual preferences, then it is likely that teams will take that into account, and his chances of going pro are somewhat diminished. If he’s threatening to sue for discrimination if he’s not selected, then his chances of going pro are significantly diminished. I never heard of him until he announced he was homosexual. I think pro football players are adults and can handle differences. Dennis Rodman was pretty unique and had a great career as a basketball player. Would hope that, if he goes pro, Sam doesn’t start any mentoring programs for youth like Charles Pugh or Sandusky did.

  17. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I think illegal aliens should be prevented from working, obtaining ID, and attending schools. If I know of a business that hires illegal aliens, I would not spend my money there. If we enforced existing laws, we would not have large numbers of persons illegally entering our country. We don’t need to tie up court dockets with hearings and we don’t need to buy plane tickets and escort them home.

  18. idea man
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    If the government wants to listen in on our calls and monitor what we look at online, how about we ask them to start paying for it? I’d be a lot more willing to accept NSA spying if I never saw another phone, internet or television bill again. I still wouldn’t like it, but it would be better than what we have now, where we’re paying thousands a year to be spied on.

  19. site admin
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    FYI: I’m going to copy these into the appropriate threads for you, EOS.

  20. Taco Farts
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I’ve never understood why EOS sticks around, and often times I’ve wondered why he’s been allowed to stick around, but this time I’m actually angry. Can we get at least get an ejection for the casual hate speech implying that all gay men are a danger to underage children, and that all pedophiles are gay men?

  21. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Well site admin, I hope you copy the comments that drew me to respond as well.

  22. site admin
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’ve taken care of it, EOS.

    If other responses to EOS could be made in the appropriate threads, it would be appreciated.

  23. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t like eos’s conflating of homosexuality and pedophilia either but your suggestion to eject someone for voicing their opinion is much more unacceptable to me. The fact that you have admitted that this is an ongoing opinion–that eos should be ejected–and not an emotional and momentary response is severely disappointing to me.

  24. site admin
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    To respond to EOS’s Michael Sam comment, click here.

  25. site admin
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    To respond to EOS’s immigration comment, click here.

  26. site admin
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Taco Farts and Frosted Flakes, I’m going to copy your comments to the appropriate thread as well.

  27. EOS
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks admin!

  28. Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    “I think illegal aliens should be prevented from working, obtaining ID, and attending schools. If I know of a business that hires illegal aliens, I would not spend my money there. If we enforced existing laws, we would not have large numbers of persons illegally entering our country. We don’t need to tie up court dockets with hearings and we don’t need to buy plane tickets and escort them home.”

    Wow.

  29. Maria Huffman
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The amazing thing about Comcast trying to get a monopoly, (let’s just say, they get it), is that they won’t have the monopoly, really. It’s just too big and diverse a country for that to happen well, anyway.. I liken it to Fox News, for instance. Or memorably, when the election was over for Mitt Romney with the Ohio votes, and Karl Rove couldn’t accept it. If you get your news from only one source, you’re bound to miss a whole lot of news that’s actually occurring but that one source ignores. And then you might really get surprised.

  30. jcp2
    Posted February 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Just drop cable and get internet from somewhere else. There are lots of non Comcast choices available. Nobody has a stranglehold on information.

  31. Redleg
    Posted February 15, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Get a roku box (100 bucks ) a broadband internet connection, pickup Hulu plus or Netflix and maybe a hi-def antenna ( for local stations )… You’ll slash your cable television bill in half. Note: Your ability to get live sports will take a hit, so as a baseball fan, I willingly fork over 120 bucks to MLB.TV per annum, to watch my games …but that will play on any connected device, a great thing, if you’re traveling or out of the house…

  32. Maria Huffman
    Posted February 16, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I hold out hope that these companies are riding waves that are going to dissipate under them, and they won’t have big influence on public policies, or at least if they do, it’s briefly. Who wants to pay Comcast even more money, given their level of performance, currently? I think about the Koch brothers too, who have made their money on lots of junk food and other modern day items, that people will sacrifice away fairly easily when the money finally runs out.

  33. Tony C
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    The sad part is that while it seems like common sense that allowing these two companies to merge seems to be massively anti-competitive, I can see how they can see their way through to a deal.

    When the DOJ and FTC look at whether or not a merger would decrease competition, it comes down to what they deem as a market or markets that these companies compete in and if they look at each city or region as a “market”, then these two companies don’t actually compete.

    Think about it: When you see Comcast, you dno’t see TWC. Where there’s TWC, you don’t see Comcast. The bad news is that market by market, monopolies already exist, so a merger would not make each market less competitive.

  34. double anonymous
    Posted February 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    More Scumbag Comcast.

    http://www.livememe.com/by3234x

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