Cable Proudly Declares Smart Shoppers A 'Lower Quality' Of Customer They Have No Interest In

from the faux-fisticuffs dept

If you live in a broadband and TV market with anything even closely resembling competition, you’ve probably learned that the only way to get the best rates is to pit ISP retention departments against one another. Often only by seriously threatening to cancel can users force ISPs to bring out their best promotional offers, something you’ll have to repeat every few years if you don’t want to get socked with higher rates. The ideal consumer then, from the broadband and cable industry’s perspective, is one that grumbles a little bit but can’t be bothered to do a little extra legwork to secure better rates (read: the vast majority of users).

Of course pitting ISPs against one another assumes you even have the choice of more than one decent broadband provider, something that’s certainly not a given. Even in markets we tend to think of as competitive, we’re increasingly seeing non-price competition (what I affectionately refer to as “wink wink, nod nod” competition), wherein duopolies quietly work together to slowly edge prices upward — because there’s simply no repercussion for doing so. The New York City tri-state area, where Cablevision and Verizon FiOS engage in a customer tug-of-war, is a perfect example of this kind of not-really-competition.

While Verizon and Cablevision did compete intensely for a short while in New York, the two sides have in recent years declared what can only be called a competitive cease fire. Both have dramatically scaled back or stopped promotions entirely and raised rates whenever possible. In fact, a study last year noted that while all cable rates are increasing much higher than the rate of inflation, Cablevision customers see some of the highest rates in the nation.

Cablevision executives meanwhile have made their disdain for the smart consumer abundantly clear over the last few years, calling smart shoppers a “dead end” that the company has no interest in pursuing. Speaking at a recent investor conference, Cablevision vice chairman Gregg Seibert took this rhetoric one step further, declaring that customers that follow the best promo offer are a “low quality” subscriber that the company is happy to get rid of:

“We found out that we were pushing subscribers back and forth on a highly promoted basis,” said Cablevision vice chairman Gregg Seibert, speaking Monday at the Deutsche Bank 2015 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla. “I don’t want to roll a truck to you every two years if you keep going back and forth to another provider ? So we’re getting rid of that lower quality, lower profitability base of subscriber.”

Except “pushing subscribers back and forth” is what competition is. Fighting to offer a better value than the other guy is how competition works. That Cablevision and FiOS can just choose when they’d like to seriously compete illustrates perfectly how even in U.S. markets we consider to be more competitive, what we’re usually witnessing is just coordinated competition theater. When consumers only have one or two real options for service, and both of those options quietly agree on an unwritten competitive cease fire, there’s simply no longer any reason to even try. It’s then a lovely layer of hubris to publicly express disdain for customers looking for something better.

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Companies: cablevision, verizon

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Comments on “Cable Proudly Declares Smart Shoppers A 'Lower Quality' Of Customer They Have No Interest In”

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Anonymous Coward says:

My parents are the exact customer he is referring to. They happen to live in an area serviced by both Cablevision and Verizon FiOS and are therefore fortunate to be able to experience true competition from time to time. My dad has threatened to leave Cablevision on several occasions over the past few years when they would raise his bill and each time Cablevision would come back with a better offer to keep his business. One time he had to go as far as schedule Verizon to do the installation before Cablevision immediately called him upon receiving Verizon’s number portability request. He’s told me that recently it’s becoming more difficult to get Cablevision to offer these retention deals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Incredibly insulting to consumers

This is another fine example of why broadband companies are among the most loathed companies in this country.

The amount of arrogance on display by broadband company executives is infuriating. They see people only as money machines. This is the attitude of monopolists. And congress can’t be bothered to reign them in and indeed promotes this behavior by granting them merger after merger and allowing them to write protectionist laws ensuring they never have to change their ways.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Incredibly insulting to consumers

Some of the difficulty results from investment rentability: The service is expensive to set up and if you have to give too many concessions on price, your ROI will be hurt.

Broadband is a bastard child. The profitability is low, development in technique is making waiting with investments advantageous and when you finally find a niche way to exploit the market, FCC can interfere.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Nothing new under the sun

I totally believe he said that. And I totally believe that all the major corporations who have us caught in regulatory lockdown feel the same way.

What was that about a free market again?

Rockefeller: This is a matter best left between businesses and their patrons. Let the market decide. Sniggers behind his hand

Jeff says:

I don’t disagree with the notion that they aren’t competing on the merits of the service. But, if the customer’s perceived difference lies only in temporary promotional rates, and the company loses more in the promotional rate, install, and deinstall of the customer over the life of their short-lived subscription, why wouldn’t they stop offering those kinds of promotional rates?

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s known: the lack of disruptive competition in the marketplace. What’s the competitive purpose of lower pricing if you don’t win many more customers, and if customer apathy towards switching providers remains higher than the perceived value of switching?

As a societal concern, access to TV doesn’t seem to be trending towards being seen as a “utility”, where forced competition and/or price controls for consumer benefit would be approached with market regulation. It might be the information lifeline for some people as opposed to the internet, newspapers, or whatever, but it doesn’t seem to be seen as necessary.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: In a world where there's only two cable providers...

In a world where there’s only two cable providers…
…they’ll come to realize that customers who leave their company for the other will eventually come back.

Maybe, but maybe not as likely as you expect. Cable cutters, cable nevers, and cable reducers have shown that if you keep screwing your customer over and over again, eventually they do a back of the napkin assessment on the value of your service vs the value of the time, energy, and effort lost by dealing with you, and slowly but increasingly, they realize that is easier to forgo your service than it is to use your service.

I am to the point where I just have internet from my provider, because everything else they were providing was far more expensive than it was worth. If there was another game in town, I’d leave their internet behind too. As it is, I have cable internet or I have cell-phone based internet, with all the stupidity that involves, or I have no internet. And they haven’t pissed me off enough to make me think that cell-based internet or going without is of more value.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: In a world where there's only two cable providers...

I just received the following items from OSDisk

Qty Description
1 Fedora 21 Software Repository – 7 DVD Set (64-bit)
1 Fedora 21 Workstation – Install/Live DVD (64-bit)
1 Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon – Install/Live DVD (64-bit)
1 Linux Mint 17.1 MATE – Install/Live DVD (64-bit)
1 Linux Mint 17.1 Software Repository – 10 DVD Set (64-bit)
1 Mageia 4.1 – Install DVD (64-bit)
1 SystemRescueCD 4.5.1 – Live CD (32-bit)
1 Ubuntu 14.10 Desktop – Install/Live DVD (64-bit)
1 Ubuntu 14.10 Software Repository – 9 DVD Set (64-bit)

It is this kind of occasional disk purchase which allows me to get by with a dial-up connection. You will notice that I chose several flavors of Linux, with a view to seeing which one works best. Linux Mint is a new distribution, little known, but I have heard good things about it, and decided to give it a try.

These disks cost me $123.55, a bit expensive, but worth it. The repository disks are current as of Feb. 25. This is the kind of place where they burn to order, instead of giving you old shopworn disks. OSDisk seems both honest and efficient, and is therefore deserving of our business.

This is money which ComCast could have had if ComCast wasn’t clueless.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Is his defense, he’s still using dial-up, so maybe by the time the page loaded it was still showing up as “new.” =)

On a related note, Linux Mint was the first distribution of Linux I tried. And believe me, I tried. I ran into a couple of issues immediately:

– My mouse didn’t register the mouse buttons after logging into the system after bootup. I would have to log out via the keyboard, log back in, and the mouse would work.

– My mouse, a R.A.T 7, had insane acceleration. Adjusting the built-in mouse settings did nothing. I had to manually enter my mouse settings through the shell and set up a script to run every time my computer booted just to be able to use the mouse.

– The system would not recognize my sound card, regardless of the drivers installed. The on-board sound worked…except in Google Chrome, which would only play sound via the sound card. No software solution I could find worked. If I wanted to watch Youtube in Chrome I’d need to physically replug my speakers into my computer.

– Steam had only about eight games with native Linux support that I owned, and of them only two actually worked when I tried them and none were games that I played regularly. WINE required extensive setup for each and every game I wanted to play, and would often crash.

– Web browsers, especially Chrome but also Firefox, routinely crashed.

– The majority of my external devices, including a webcam and my phone, did not work and/or have working drivers.

While Linux seemed perfect for me in theory, in practice it was a giant headache, and having to do everything via command line (with varying degrees of success), including installing system programs (again, with varying degrees of success) was profoundly irritating. Having almost none of my software or hardware work or work without effort made it nearly impossible to work or play on my home computer. I lasted about a month and a half before removing Linux from my master boot record and reformatting its partition.

Kudos to all you out there using it and having it work for you. You’re probably not doing the same stuff I am, or you have significantly more computer knowledge than I do…and I’m an amateur programmer and build my own computers, which is probably more knowledgeable than your average user.

If Linux really wants to dig into the Windows market there needs to be huge strides in basic compatibility; being able to switch to multiple unique desktops is a neat novelty, but if my core stuff doesn’t work I’m not going to want to use it. And I actually know how to research things and implement solutions; the average user would probably have given up the first time their mouse buttons didn’t work.

It’s too bad. Windows 8 has many flaws, but everything generally works when you plug it in (with the possible exception of networking, which is about as intuitive as writing in ASCII hexadecimal codes, and works when it feels like it). I love the idea of an OS I can really dig into and customize, but rather than getting a Honda Civic I can trick out I feel like I got a Jeep Cherokee with the doors falling off and no wheels. Sure, I can fix it up and deal with it’s issues, but why bother?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

If Linux really wants to dig into the Windows market there needs to be huge strides in basic compatibility;

I feel like there are a lot of people in the Linux community who would prefer it didn’t make inroads into that market. But there doesn’t seem to be much risk of that happening anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Linux doesn’t “want to dig into the Windows market”. That’s Microsoft (and Apple) think and doesn’t apply.
Linux is offered for free for anybody to try. For some it’s the answer while for others, such as you, it’s not.
Such is life.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Linux doesn’t “want to dig into the Windows market”. That’s Microsoft (and Apple) think and doesn’t apply.

I doubt the companies that develop the Linux distros agree. “Open source” is fantastic, but to imply that there is no monetary gain or advantage in competing with other players in a similar market is a bit naive.

Linux itself may be free, but much of the software and peripherals designed for it are not. The more people that adopt the Linux platform the more potential customers these developers stand to gain. By making Linux free they have a huge potential user base. While I’m certain there are Linux users that touch nothing but open source, free software there are plenty more that buy Linux compatible software.

There is a lot of potential money in making Linux a more popular OS. Being “elitist” and limiting your user base to tech snobs who love to reminisce about AUTOEXEC.BAT editing is a poor long-term plan for anyone utilizing the platform.

The more people that adopt Linux, the more developers are likely to spend the time and effort to develop software that is native to the OS, which makes the system better for everyone. It also encourages Microsoft and Apple to be a bit more competitive with their own products, and it’s working to a degree already (I doubt Microsoft would offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade just for kicks).

I’m willing to learn a new system, and I’m willing to put in some effort to pull out some advanced features. I’m just not willing to have to fight my computer to do basic functions, like click mouse buttons. I’m not alone. And all the others like me are making your chosen platform have less options and be less profitable for developers.

I’m not sure how that’s beneficial to anyone (other than Microsoft and Apple, of course).

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Well, actually, my computing experience goes back a matter of forty years, to a brief taste of the Victor Comptometer 4800, which was an attempt to compete with the Hewlett Packard 9100-Series programmable calculators. It was unsuccessful, and the company folded, but not before I’d gotten some free time on one of their machines. Some years later, I got a TI-58 programmable calculator After that FORTRAN IV and PL/I on the IBM 370 mainframe, and FORTRAN II on the IBM 1130, both using punch cards. And, eventually, a personal computer of my own.

When I decided to get into Linux, I accepted from the beginning that I would need two computers, one for Windows, and one for Linux. It was obvious. I started Linux with Red Hat 5.2, and have been moving into Linux by small increments.

Incidentally, the way to make command line work is to have a manual at hand, and write shell scripts. Nowadays, it is usually possible to paste and edit material from a man page, which is just about as easy as clicking things.

The reason I am using dial-up is a function of where and how I live, and the fact that the cable company very badly wants me to be something other than what I am, to the point that they render themselves completely useless. They want me to be something like a fraternity boy, and I was never a fraternity boy, even when I was eighteen years old.

Look at it this way: the local water board does not attempt to deliver either Fiji Water or Coca Cola. If they made such an attempt, you can imagine the complex plumbing this would entail, and the probable cost. As it is, the water board delivers sanitary water, which is good enough for washing, making coffee, etc. at a quite low cost. The water board does not tell me what kind of coffee or tea to buy. If the Coca Cola company gained control of the municipal water supply, they might very well repeat all the follies ComCast has committed.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Nowadays, it is usually possible to paste and edit material from a man page, which is just about as easy as clicking things.

You may be a little out of touch with the average Windows/Mac user.

You might also enjoy this if you haven’t seen it already:

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Um, your point about using 40-year-old computer systems and being proud of that was pretty much my point. I used Tandy 1000s, MS-DOS, and other green/orange-and-black computers with no hard drive, a 5.25″ floppy. I think it was my third computer where I first used this fancy “mouse” thing.

I remember spending hours modifying AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files to create boot disks for each program, and finally finding the right code to get my stupid sound card working. I remember spending the time to type out long, complex commands and having to tab through multiple pages to find the right information…and heaven forbid you miss the page, because there was no “back” option; you got to start over. And forget copying that information elsewhere or multitasking; you got to write it down on a sheet of paper then manually type it in later.

Been there, done that. Those systems didn’t have more freedom or customizability than modern ones. They were just harder to use and less forgiving. Do you program? Do you prefer the old compilers with hardly any documentation (let alone smart documentation), no autocomplete, arcane or useless syntax errors that didn’t even highlight the general location of the error, etc.? I’ll take my modern compiler with visual assistance and built-in libraries, error checking, and debug modules, thanks. If you prefer the old way that’s fine, but the majority of people out there are unlikely to feel the same way.

I have no idea what you mean by becoming a “fraternity boy” by using broadband. Clearly it’s meant to be derogatory but I can’t really understand how it relates in this context. Your water supply example doesn’t really make sense to me either; you’re simply paying your phone company (probably for two phone lines) and dial-up company rather than Comcast. In both situations you’re paying a private company for your “utility.” While I certainly don’t like Comcast, you’re not really comparing like products; the crappiest broadband, heck even 3g wireless, is significantly better than the best dial-up internet (the fastest uncompressed dial-up is around 56 kbps whereas the slowest 3g is around 200 kbps; even with lossy compression a dial-up is still slower than the worst broadband or 4g internet). It’s more like you’re comparing a bicycle to a car. Sure, the bicycle works, but unless you’re living in very specific circumstances it’s rarely going to be even a fraction of the utility of a mid-low range car.

I’m glad Linux works for you, but the fact that you’re satisfied with dial-up and your 40-year-old computer experience doesn’t make a good case for Linux as being a viable alternative to Windows/Mac. I’m also confused why you would use two separate computers rather than a dual boot machine (possibly with two hard drives), especially if you’re concerned about the price of broadband. And if it weren’t for your dial-up internet, I’d wonder why you’re using a manual rather than online Linux forums (which is the only reliable place I found to fix anything). I’m not trying to be rude or combative; I honestly don’t understand your situation and how Linux is helping you, especially since you already paid for Windows.

I really want to like Linux, and I want it to be able to compete with Windows and Mac for a couple reasons. First, I want more developers to create awesome stuff for the platform, which they probably won’t do unless the OS gets more adoption. Second, I want to see a free product compete with other operating systems, forcing them to deliver a better product at a lower price in order to stay relevant. Third, I like the idea of an OS I can really customize and make my own.

It just isn’t there, and it concerns me that the people who use it are so wrapped up in their nostalgic “hipster” mentality that the programmers are catering to that crowd. It’s just so much wasted potential.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

I think a big part of the problem is support. Most of the solutions you find (or at least that I’ve found) to problems with Linux involve pasting incomprehensible* text into a command prompt. While that works, it’s probably a turn-off for a lot of users, and it also means most users will never actually learn how to do things. They won’t want to get proficient with bash, and they’re not given pointers on how to do anything with the UI. And then there are things that there is no UI for, but now and then someone will need to do it. The command prompt is fine, and it’s powerful, but it’s not user friendly, and until Linux gets to the point where it’s easy to use without opening a command prompt, it will remain a niche product IMO.

* to your average user who doesn’t know what a browser is

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

“I doubt the companies that develop the Linux distros agree.”

Not all distros are made by companies, and not all distros made by companies are looking to maximize profit.

Also, what distros want isn’t the point. You were talking about what “Linux” wants, which I took to mean what the Linux community wants. That’s often different from what distros want. So, who are you talking about?

I have to say that I don’t recognize most of your criticisms of Linux. Aside from the occasional headache (and headaches of the same sorts happen in every operating system), Linux is pretty simple and trouble free. I know a number of people who are not computer geeks who installed and use Linux as their primary OS without a problem.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Sorry, I may have made things unclear when I was discussing distros and companies. It’s not the OS itself which is profitable or made for profit. It’s the surrounding ecosystem. For example, some Steam games have native Linux versions but the vast majority don’t. If I’m an user of Linux, and want to play computer games (as an example), my options are extremely limited.

So what? Developers don’t generally bother with platforms that are unpopular (see: BlackBerry). The more popular and used Linux becomes, the more developers have a legitimate business reason to develop for the OS. This, in turn, gives the users of Linux more options, more freedom, and higher quality products.

By ignoring difficulties and releasing buggy, incompatible, and arcane software that only the most dedicated users will ever understand or be able to use efficiently, developers are less likely to make their software compatible with Linux. So now you’re left with a buggy, incompatible, arcane, and empty OS. And with Windows 10 being released as a free upgrade to existing Windows users, not even the shenanigans of Windows 8 will be enough to draw people away from Windows. Your argument is this doesn’t affect Linux or Linux users, but since an operating system is practically worthless without software, I strongly disagree.

Again, my issues with Linux were probably specific to my particular computer. I built it completely from individually purchased parts and each one has its own drivers and bugs. I went in to Linux expecting to be able to modify my system heavily if I chose but have a basic, working operating system at the core. It did not meet that expectation and did not do what I wanted it to do.

If I were using it for different purposes, perhaps just for programming or just for word processing, or even just for a specific business program, maybe I would feel differently. I use my computer for a myriad of purposes, from word processing, data analysis, graphic design, programming, video gaming, and entertainment. Hardly any of my existing software worked, or worked without significant trouble, and alternative software options were all inferior to existing or incompatible products.

Which was my original point. Developers are not going to spend the time and energy to make their software for systems that aren’t going to make them a profit compared to the time invested in entering that market. If Linux users want a better experience, it’s in their best interest to have more people enter the platform and create a demand for Linux-compatible software. The attitude of “it works for me, so it’s fine” and the high learning curve, often without much help to users trying to switch (or outright derision from the community), hurts the platform as a whole for everyone…including existing users.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

I don’t play animated video-games. Such games, with their real-time animation, happen to be about the only user application which demands the power of an expensive computer. My experience is that a desktop computer worth perhaps a hundred or two hundred dollars, sans monitor, can do things like saving live video to files, playing the files back, skipping and fast-forwarding, editing, etc. The machine can also support a graphics program such as GIMP or Xfig with images five thousand pixels across, good enough for mechanical drawing. All these tasks are accomplished with free software, bundled into the Linux distribution, and tuned to work. The going rate for an electronic KVM switch on Amazon is about ten or twenty dollars. Telephone and cable bills are on a fundamentally higher scale.

Effectively, the distro functions as the user’s system manager. It is the distro’s job to test programs, and correct problems. Certainly they are responsible for problems which result from interactions between different parts of the distribution, and additionally, they are supposed to know about reasonably common hardware, such as the components of motherboards. Similarly, the builder of the motherboard is supposed to have solved the most difficult problems of hardware integration.

JP Jones’s problem seems to have to do with proprietary games, to which the distro is not allowed access, and cannot assume this kind of responsibility. Very well, those kind of games probably should be played on a Windows computer. Equally to the point, they should probably not share a machine with confidential documents, because they are bound to be trojans. I cast my mind back to a time when I had an electric typewriter; and a television set; and a programmable calculator; and a drawing board with the usual assortment of squares, compasses, templates, etc.; and a volt-meter which I had soldered together from a Radio Shack kit. It doesn’t seem particularly outrageous to me to have multiple boxes for different purposes, provided the aggregate price is right.

The point about cable is that the cable company won’t sell you broadband at any kind of reasonable price, until you’ve bought all the cable channels. They think of broadband as a means of evading paying for HBO and the various sports channels, and naturally, they don’t consider it in their interest to just sell you $50/month worth of broadband and nothing else. What I mean by “fraternity boy” is an institution which systematically takes young men, and forces them to react as eight-year-old kids. The cable company has massive investments in things like movie studios which crank out sub-adult product, and various kinds of interlocking ownership with the owners of sports teams.

Where I live, one cannot threaten to switch to U-Verse, because the cable company knows perfectly well that there isn’t any U-Verse, that it is Reverse Morris Trust territory, and that the new telephone company is dedicated to zeroing out investment, and maximizing short-term revenue. More precisely still, I am about two miles from the telephone company’s central office, by road, I don’t know exactly how far by cable. Ordinary DSL (768 Kbits) would be a marginal proposition.

There are compensations, of course. Last night, I was out walking at midnight, doing some errands. Crossing a field, I saw someone at a distance, and halloed to him. He called back in a Chinese accent, most likely a hospital intern on his way to the late-night shift. The joys of country living.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 In a world where there's only two cable providers...

Such games, with their real-time animation, happen to be about the only user application which demands the power of an expensive computer.

Have you ever used a computer for serious video editing, rendering, or 3D graphics? What about physics or economics simulations? These require some decent horsepower (or a lot of wasted time). Most of the major editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop/Premier, 3d Studio/Maya, Sony Vegas, etc. are not natively compatible with Linux and run only with varying degrees of success and efficiency using WINE. There are alternatives, of course, but none of them are at the level of these programs (no matter how much people claim Blender can “do it all”…it’s not as good). A $200 computer and Linux just won’t meet any sort of professional design work requirements; gaming is equally as bad, but not the only reason for a better computer.

Equally to the point, they should probably not share a machine with confidential documents, because they are bound to be trojans.

Huh? All computer games are bound to be trojans? That’s like saying all knives are bound to be murder weapons. Very confusing.

Certainly they are responsible for problems which result from interactions between different parts of the distribution, and additionally, they are supposed to know about reasonably common hardware, such as the components of motherboards.

Huh? That was my whole point; the distro wasn’t able to handle basic device drivers. My mouse, sound card, and webcam all either failed to work or worked only in certain situations or with considerable effort. After those issues I didn’t dare try to install any overclocking software. Maybe a bit paranoid but I wasn’t going to let Linux touch my voltage after the problems I’d already had.

The point about cable is that the cable company won’t sell you broadband at any kind of reasonable price, until you’ve bought all the cable channels.

I haven’t used Comcast recently but I’ve used both Time Warner and Hawaii Telecom, and neither offered cheaper internet with bundled cable. They offered really cheap cable if you already had internet, but the internet alone was cheaper. In fact, I couldn’t find a single article or ad that showed you could get bundled cable and internet on Comcast for cheaper than just internet. It’s obviously in their best interest to get people to stick with having cable but you certainly aren’t forced to and you aren’t paying more to choose not to.

Granted, you may not want to use Comcast for other reasons (like being Comcast) but to imply that you’re forced into cable or that you’re getting better service using dial-up seems a bit extreme.

Anyway, all of your responses have only highlighted my original point; Linux works only in extremely limited purposes, such as the high tech level (which, no offense, you are not in) and the basic or extremely specialized computing level (which would probably work just as well, if not better, using a Chromebook, and for a similar price).

Which is too bad, because there’s so much potential there. Oh well.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: New way

Why not find a way to allow customers to switch ISPs without rolling a truck?

A couple months ago, I went into the cable storefront to ask them to increase my internet to their super-ultimate-nerd-class internet package (because of the higher caps, which are ridiculous and should be illegal.) They wanted to roll a truck (which would cost me a fee.)

After I showed them that I already had a DOCSIS 3 modem capable of handling the speed, and that internet was working fine for me at the previous levels, they still wanted to roll a truck. Because reasons (and I suspect, to get a salesperson in the door to try to sell me something else I didn’t want for the money I just paid them to do nothing.)

Finally, after arguing with them for 30 minutes, and getting a supervisor involved, I told them they were welcome to roll a truck, but they wouldn’t step foot in my house and it would be a waste of everyone’s time. I nearly walked out of the place, figuring that I just wasted 30 minutes to get another 100GB a month on my cap. The manager called me back and said they would upgrade me without needing to roll a truck since I already had working internet and a DOCSIS 3 modem (duh.)

The sad thing is the whole time driving home, I was highly suspicious that my internet would no longer be working when I got home, just so that they could charge me a fee to get a salesperson in the door. Luckily, they weren’t that evil/inept, and everything worked fine.

Ninja (profile) says:

Something interesting is happening here which would illustrate how this sector NEEDS regulation (which Title II would partially help): here in Brazil the difficulty and the time spent to cancel stuff with the telcos has gotten so famous and mocked that it finally sparked a reaction from the regulator body Anatel (the equivalent to the FCC in the US). Now they must provide a way to terminate the services electronically. No annoying customer rep trying to retain you and they have a very narrow time window to process the requests. Awesome.

Of course you’d only cancel if you had where to go. This gets significantly more problematic if there’s either no competition or some pseudo competition as discussed in the article.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Water Board and Broadcast Satellites.

Look, we are talking about a public utility, a natural monopoly. I went into this at some length. The only sane approach is one in which the local subscriber loop (landline) is treated like the water, the sewage, and the street pavement. There are two entities, the local water board, and the city street department, which should take responsibility for this kind of thing.

On top of that, you want to have Competitive Local Exchange Companies (CLECs), or ISP’s, which don’t cost so much to set up, and which can be effectually completive.

The most immediate measure is simply to take broadcast video out of the equation, and make the cable companies hungry enough that they are looking to be bought out. This means broadcast satellites, and specifically, satellites owned by foreign countries. There was a time when you bought a short-wave radio set, instead of a mere AM/FM set, because you wanted to be more in contact with the world. The same considerations might apply to buying a satellite dish. Perhaps it would be worth paying a little more to get a dish which can receive signals from any given point along the geo-stationary belt, instead of just the Dish and DirectTV satellites.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

…why not make sure you have the lowest rate and best service, and no one will want to leave? It really does take a special kind of sociopath to manage a major corporation that the thought doesn’t even enter their mind.

Not really, it’s just the natural consequence of not having any real competition. As much as people like to apply the term “sociopath” to corporate executives, I don’t think it’s an unusual human trait to be a lot more interested in one’s own financial success than that of others. They just have a lot more ability to actually do something about it.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

In the 1970’s, the telephone company still treated modular telephone jacks (RJ-11) as an extra-cost option. Their view was that modular jacks competed with multiple installed telephones, and that they ought to make something extra to compensate them for the loss of revenue in rented telephones. But, about 1980, they decided to make modular jacks standard. Whenever a telephone company technician went out on a call, he would replace the fixed phone connections with jack-plates. Shortly after that, the telephone company began to make it a do-it-yourself project, giving customers modular jacks in little envelopes, with instruction leaflets. It was no more work for a technician to install a jack than to install a telephone, and only slightly more work than uninstalling a telephone, so there was no real cost to the installation.

I recall a telephone company advertisement from the 1970’s. It shows an English Sheepdog, happily gripping a torn-off telephone receiver in his mouth. The caption pointed out that this would be repaired free of charge. Shortly after 1980, telephone service ceased to include a telephone. One bought a telephone at a store, like any other electrical appliance.

In principle, the cable companies could do a kind of piecemeal upgrading, similar to what the telephone company did in 1980. They could design small weatherproof switches, and install them whenever it was necessary to visit any given location. Every switch would have at least one upstream optical fiber port. They could gradually install upgraded cables between upgraded switches. However, their mentality is just not ready for it. They persistently think of cable as a method of broadcasting television, not as a means of delivering internet service. They choose to physically dismantle the connection when terminating service, to ensure that no one can watch cable television for free.

Obviously, that does not apply to the internet, or to telephony. A continuous cable connection is no use if the machine on the other end will not recognize you. I suppose you could maliciously jam or spy on a common-cable subnet which you did not have a subscription to. However, the man in the street is not a “phreak.”

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

As much as people like to apply the term “sociopath” to corporate executives, I don’t think it’s an unusual human trait to be a lot more interested in one’s own financial success than that of others.

It’s not an unusual human trait to be angry with someone who causes problems for you and wish harm upon them, either. It’s perfectly natural. That doesn’t mean we see nothing wrong with acting upon such feelings.

In fact, “to desire your own well-being over that of others, to such a degree that you will intentionally cause harm to them to further your own interests” is the most fundamental definition of “evil” that I can think of, and would cover pretty much every act called evil by every major belief system. (Except Objectivism, of course, which calls that “rational self-interest.” Which is why civilized people call Objectivism evil.)

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

It’s not an unusual human trait to be angry with someone who causes problems for you and wish harm upon them, either. It’s perfectly natural. That doesn’t mean we see nothing wrong with acting upon such feelings.

I didn’t say there’s nothing wrong with it, I said it doesn’t make the person a sociopath.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

And I think of sociopath as in inappropriate description because of its immoral connotations, especially since the issue is in a way not with the people, but the corporation and its natural goal to seek profit.

Corporations are not immoral, because wanting to make money isn’t immoral. Looking to get some money in your pocket is not evil by itself.

Instead the profit seeking by corporations makes them amoral. It’s not that they are actively looking to steal candy from babies, it’s just that they will if it makes them money, and is easier to do than their alternatives. Like the scorpion, there’s little point in blaming it for stinging you when you pick it up.

I think that Techdirt has put the pin right on the problem that perpetuates the “evil” of telecomms. They have mixed regulatory capture with cartel behaviors to set up an environment where it is super easy for them to make a profit without having to compete or cater to their market.

There’s little point to blaming a telecomm when they created this cozy arrangement for themselves, and we don’t hold the regulators accountable for letting it happen.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: If they don't want to have to send a technician out to install that often...

“As much as people like to apply the term “sociopath” to corporate executives, I don’t think it’s an unusual human trait to be a lot more interested in one’s own financial success than that of others.”

Being more interested in your own financial success than others isn’t sociopathic. As you say, it’s normal. But that’s not exactly the problem. The problem is when you’re willing to harm other people to advance your own financial situation. Most people don’t take things that far and (correctly) recognize that such behavior is unacceptable.

farooge (profile) says:

I'm a good customer ...

I found out last week we paid Comcast about ~$500 dollars (I didn’t know about – wife pays bills) and 3 vacation days (that I certainly knew about at the time) to get Comcast to FINALLY climb the pole outside my house and replace their ‘broken thing’ so my internet would stay connected for more than 15 minutes. Also: I had to order phone service to get their wonderful ‘computer system’ to allow tech to be scheduled in the first place (this was back in October).

I know all about how they value customers …. then they have commercials talking about how the people who actually come to your house are going to be nice, on time and such … that has NEVER been an issue for me, EVER (3 houses all over Nashville) – it’s been the ‘system’ not allowing the customer service rep to do what they KNEW I needed or the (outsourced) call centers OBVIOUS marching orders.

I can’t wait to call about getting my money back (that I was promised wouldn’t be charged in the first place), it’ll be awesome I bet – I’m actually not sure it’ll be worth $500 to deal with them again (best customer ever, amiright?)

At least Google Fiber is coming here .. and I work for the local utility Google had to negotiate with. I just made them (Google) a list of our approved manufacturers and part numbers so they could start ordering the new poles they’ll be installing to make this all work.

Anon says:

Disconnect (Cognitive)

There are several problems; Here’s my guess –

The first issue is that likely the group tasked with acquiring new customers has little say on the ongoing service after they are signed up (“sales” vs “support”). So Sales can do what they want, promise what they want – there will be no follow through. Sales can set promotional rates but not the operations group’s on-going rates.

Besides, the logic is that they can charge some customers much higher rates and the won’t switch, so why gift those with lower permanent rates to attract smart/lower quality customers?

The whole concept is like advertising’s advice “sell the sizzle, not the steak” since by the time the customer bites into rotten meat they’ve already bought the steak.

I suspect the sales people are driven by numbers – and the majority of people who might be sign up prospects are the ones who quit a year before. if your goal is numbers, why would you exclude those? If the cost of connecting them is irrelevant, not a number you report in Sales; ditto for the customer’s longevity – why would sales care?

So what the problem is – the cable companies are not only screwed up when it comes to customer service, their internal organization behaviour is screwed up too.

Adam (profile) says:

I have exactly ONE choice of broadband. Starting 5 years ago @ 75MB in/8MB out. It cost me then $79 + $20 for a static IP address… so $99 before taxes. I do not recall my after tax rate. Today I have the same provider, I now get 110MB in/15MB out and my cost is $111 AFTER taxes. When I did live in an area where I had two choices, I could pay my 100 bucks for this type of service of I could pay 60 bucks at the competitor for 15MB in/1.5MB out and no static IP address. Higher speeds from the competition was considered business class and started at $160 for 25MB in/5MB out. Currently during prime hours I can pull 104+MB… on the competition during prime hours I could pull 1.5MB if I was lucky.

Where is the competition? I feel my current rate is fair but it leads to two types of customers. One who knows/cares and is willing to pay and one who doesn’t know/care and chooses by price.

What’s my point? I have none. I’m just tired of monopolies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why ?

I remember when broadcasts / radio waves were considered to “belong to the public”. Laws have eroded to the point that we pay because we have to or nothing. It’ll be interesting to see how much pain consumers will tolerate – already I’ve heard estimates that tv has lost 30% of subsribers. I doubt if I’ll pay cable for 200+ shows with 198 of them unwatchable ever again.

What I don’t understand is how congress and FCC can be so blind? Net Neutrality wasn’t much of a win, it just kept things from getting worse (hopefully).

When I hear some politican railing on about “entittlements” I think of my cable provider. They are the “welfare queens”.

Don says:

Perceived Competition

I know exactly what this guy is writing about. In rural areas, where we can’t get cable or even DSL, we’re stuck with satellite internet. They say there’s competition, because we can choose between HughesNet, Exede, and a couple of others; but when you examine their data plans and prices, they’re all offering the same speeds/data limits for basically the same prices. Try to get the local company, which claims it can provide more; but if you’re not in a clear shot of their tower (read: no trees between your house and the tower), the best they can offer is 5gb down/1gb up.
So competition is merely a perception, not a reality. And people wonder why I support Net Neutrality.

J. S. Greenfield (profile) says:

As usual, Karl, your commentary is driven entirely by emotion, and demonstrates only that, and a profound lack of understanding.

Ok. We get it. You hate your cable company (and probably just about every other company, excepting a few sacred cows that you love). And it’s oh so easy for you to contort your perception of the world to match that profound belief in corporate evil….

For those who are a bit more interested in actually understanding…Cablevision and Verizon aren’t cutting back on promotions as part of some evil plot. They are cutting back on promotions because they are finally getting over the “I must beat the other at all costs” mentality that drove competition via promotions for many years.

It is a completely rational and reasonable thing for companies to understand which customers are profitable for them, and which are not. And deciding that you are, at a minimum, no longer going to bend over backward to attract and retain customers who are not profitable is a very rational and reasonable thing to do. It’s the same thing any of us would do, if we were running our own business (and wanted to remain in business).

Consumers got a great deal for a number of years as two sides engaged in not necessarily terribly rational competition, offering prices prices below their cost of service. Good for those consumers. But to whine because you’re no longer getting a deal so good that the provider loses money on you? Please, that’s a bit much.

And your claim that Cablevision charges the highest rates in the nation further demonstrates your profound lack of understanding. As many people who live outside of Cablevision’s footprint can and do attest, Cablevision’s rates are quite far from highest in the country. In fact, they are probably among the lowest in the country (precisely because Cablevision has more competition than any other cable operator).

What is highest at Cablevision is not its rates, but the amount that customers pay each month, on average. But those customer bills aren’t higher because Cablevision rates are highers than elsewhere. They are higher because Cablevision customers take more services than anywhere else. For decades, Cablevision has led cable operators in customers taking digital video, customers taking internet service, and customers taking voice service.

Customers have higher bills at Cablevision, because more of them choose more services from Cablevision over competitors than anywhere else!

And if you want to complain about super-inflationary cable rates, complain to your Congressmen. Because the increase in cable rates is virtually entirely due bad policy that enables programmers to increase their rates virtually at will, while cable (and satellite and telco) operators can do virtually nothing to prevent it. (Keep that in mind next time you have a channel blacked out because a cable or satellite or telco operator is trying to fight a rate increase, and you blame them for it….)

The video bill is where the virtually all of the increases have come over the last few decades. Broadband has not increased much at all (despite a 1000x increase in service levels vs. two decades ago), and cable voice service dramatically reduced consumer costs compared to the incumbent phone companies.

What’s more, the data shows that cable providers actually passed through only half of the video rate increases imposed by programmers — precisely because stiff competition among cable, satellite and telco operators meant none of them had pricing power to pass through the full increases.

Perhaps one of these days you’ll take a break from whining and ranting long enough to actually take time to research some facts (vs. just finding ammunition to back up your points) and honestly try to understand even a little bit about what you deign to criticize, before you start ranting.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Cablevision and Verizon aren’t cutting back on promotions as part of some evil plot. They are cutting back on promotions because they are finally getting over the “I must beat the other at all costs” mentality that drove competition via promotions for many years.

That’s exactly what Karl said: they’ve realized they don’t really need to compete with each other, so they stopped doing it.

It is a completely rational and reasonable thing for companies to understand which customers are profitable for them, and which are not.

Sure, and what you’re ignoring is why these companies can afford to ignore people who are looking for lower prices.

mspencer says:

I see nothing wrong with this. I service about 500 customers a year. Most are great, I have a few that always want to negotiate the bill, never pay on time etc. I tend to drop those customers. Someone else can have them. It is not worth the extra manpower it takes to try to get paid on time and not negotiate after the fact all the time.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I see nothing wrong with this. I service about 500 customers a year. Most are great, I have a few that always want to negotiate the bill, never pay on time etc. I tend to drop those customers. Someone else can have them.

That is not the problem. The problem is that both of the options available to these customers have decided to stop competing on price (and probably everything else, too).

farooge (profile) says:

Why ?

@Pierre “I don’t mean to sound offensive. I’m French”

Is that actually a thing that can happen in real life if I’m Anglo? (j/k, I couldn’t resist)

Interesting that you don’t have to. Back when cable started here that was a selling point that I knew (as a 10 year old) wouldn’t last long .. and it didn’t. YES, it’s obnoxious but we have NO CHOICE.

JBDragon says:

I’ve been with U-Verse for the last couple years. When my low price ended after the year and jumped up I called and threaten to go to Comcast. After all the Normal price is not much lower then Comcast prices for far slower service. I don’t mind the slow service when I’m paying just $35 a month. Internet only. When it jumps to $55 then it’s only like $10 more for much faster internet only service form Comcast.

I used to pay Comcast $170 a month for HD TV service with a duel DVR tuner and Mid speed Internet service. It was just me, 1 TV and I just hated getting that huge bill every month and for what?!?! I could never watch enough TV or use the Internet to justify that cost.

So when I was getting ready to start house shopping, I went to Comcast and handed them my DVR and said I was done with paying for TV, just stick with internet. They did give my 6 months of lower cost Internet service which was more then enough time to look for a house and MOVE.

I got my house, signed up for U-Verse for Internet only and installed a Nice large Antenna where I get all my broadcast channels for free. I use my Computer and Media Center and a couple duel HD Homerun tuners where I can record up to 4 programs at once. Or Record 3 and watch one LIVE or Record 4 and watch something already recorded. Or Start watching in the Family Room and continue in the Bedroom. I use Xbox 360’s as Media Center Extenders. I have one for each HDTV. They boot up directly into Media Center Extender mode. No need to be a paid Gold Member. The Channel listing and program guide is FREE. You can buy a new 360 for $199 which is a great deal. You don’t need a HDD because you’re streaming, (With full DVR controls, I use Harmony 900 Remotes) and no need for a Kinect. Save money and buy USED!!! It’s pretty flexible. I added Channel Logo’s. You can connect up to 4-5 Extenders and stream them all at once, WIRED for HD. Or just 1 Wireless. Just not enough bandwidth wireless. I wired up my House with a Gigabit Network and have most of my hardware including my 24 port Gigabit switch in my closet That’s also where my 2 Tuners are which connect by Ethernet and my computer is back in the Bedroom/computer room.

You can start out small with 1 tuner, and one Xbox and Expand as you need to. I like it. All my TV shows Auto Record. The system paid for it’s self in no time flat and now it’s just FREE every month. From my 24 port Gigabit switch to the Cat6 Cable and connectors and whatnot all from, it was pretty cheap. I was under my house for a couple days crawling around running the Cat6 cables from the Closet that’s in the middle of my house which I also had ran power to. Plus the Antenna Cable to the closet and to each HDTV as a direct backup if there was a computer issue. Plus I had to run a ground wire for the Family room Power outlet and the 3 bedrooms that none had grounded outlets. That was fun and a pain to do!!! Once it’s done, I don’t think I’ll ever need to deal with it. Though I need to run a COAX cable for outside the Comcast Hookup to my Closet just in case I make a switch from U-Verse in the future. It’s all wired nice and neat along the beams, not laying all over the ground. I even had to run speaker wire from the front of the family room to the Back where I have ports to connect the rear surround speakers into. All wires are hidden in the walls or under the house.

A wired Network, especially Gigabit is is much faster then wireless. Wireless also gets slower from distance and going threw threw walls and other things. I have no Interference issues either. I can just plug whatever device right into a Wall port. I have like 6-8 Ethernet Ports right in the family room alone. 4 in my Master bedroom, etc. It’s my house, I don’t plan to move anytime soon. I don’t mind a little effort. It pays off in the end.

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