Thanks To No Competition, Broadband Satisfaction Scores Plummet

from the this-is-why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept

For years now we’ve documented the shitshow that is broadband industry customer satisfaction. That shitshow is generally thanks to a continued lack of real competition in the space, which lets these companies not only mindlessly raise rates like it’s going out of style, but it gives companies like Comcast the leeway to experiment with terrible, anti-competitive practices like arbitrary and punitive usage caps and overage fees. And that’s of course before you get to the clown car that passes for customer service at many of these companies, which routinely makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Year after year we witness a rotating crop of bizarre stories highlighting how terribly these entrenched monopolies treat their subscribers. And each year industry executives insist that they’ve learned the error of their ways and have dedicated themselves and their budgets to fixing the “consumer experience.”

Except because these companies all but own state and federal lawmakers– and see virtually no competition in their markets (especially at higher speeds)–things never actually get better. Case in point: the American Customer Satisfaction Index has released their latest analysis of customer satisfaction with the broadband industry. And what they found isn’t pretty. In short, every single major ISP but one saw a decline in customer satisfaction over the last year:

Note that these scores are worse than every other industry the ACSI tracks, including the airline, insurance, and banking sectors. And these scores are even well below consumer satisfaction with many government agencies, including the IRS.

Comcast in fact is the only company to see no change whatsoever (though its TV services saw a 1 point decline), which is still notable given its 2014 promise that the hiring of a customer experience VP and other well-hyped improvements were going to “revolutionize” the way Comcast consumers were treated. Other companies like Charter (Spectrum) are in absolute free fall, dropping 8% year over year thanks to the poor service, rate hikes and empty promises in the wake of the company’s bungled $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

And while things like gigabit broadband get a lot of media hype, we’ve noted that the lack of competition driving this problem is only getting worse. Numerous telcos have all but given up on residential broadband to shift their focus toward video advertising and enterprise services. And as they refuse to upgrade millions of DSL subscribers they don’t actually want, cable companies like Comcast and Charter are securing a greater monopoly over broadband than ever before.

Some like to claim new wireless technologies (like 5G) will emerge to magically provide competition to these providers. But while 5G wireless will provide faster, lower-latency and more resillient networks, it won’t fix the business data service monopoly that drives high prices and many of the competition issues in the wireless sector. Nor will it address the industry’s plan to keep putting ma bell back together via an endless array of competition-reducing megamergers. And however promising 5G is, it’s not a substitute for uncapped, fixed broadband — especially in more rural areas and less affluent cities.

While cable secures a growing monopoly over fixed-line broadband, monopoly ISPs (with the Trump administration’s help) are gutting all FTC, FCC and state oversight over their regional monopolistic fiefdoms. All while regulators like Ajit Pai whisper sweet nothings about how eliminating popular consumer protections like net neutrality will magically improve sector investment and competition. Surely this all works out well for the consumer, right?

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Companies: charter, comcast, time warner, verizon

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Comments on “Thanks To No Competition, Broadband Satisfaction Scores Plummet”

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Anonymous Coward says:

<> “…because these companies all but own state and federal lawmakers”

Ahhh — there’s the core problem. You have a corrupt American political system where most lawmakers can be bought by big-money special interests.

You can’t buy what is not for sale. Why are our lawmakers for sale.

Endless bitc_ing about big corporations accomplishes nothing — fix the suffocating corruption in U.S. politics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Google Fiber

They actually did want to, but they spend more money in court fighting the incumbents than building fiber, so you can see why they’re jaded and retreating from the issue.

REALLY "JoeCool"? Google spent BILLIONS in court?

‘Cause a minion has stated "Google, which is spending billions on wireless service and fiber to the home":’

No. You are FLATLY WRONG, kid. Typical Techdirt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Google Fiber

Since Google has over a hundred billion dollars in the bank (and could no doubt borrow a far greater amount) it might be worth noting that the company only spent a tiny fraction of what it easily could have spent on it’s much-balleyhooed FTTH buildout.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Google Fiber

In what world do you live in where that would be even remotely possible?

Buying out Charter, Comcast, ATT, and Verizon alone would be such a huge violation of antitrust laws, no one in their right mind would even go near to approving that. Granted we’ve got some messed up situations but that is an entirley different level of messed up that would never happen in today’s business and political climate.

And buying judges, you must think every judge is crooked then? Because they would pretty much have to buy every judge in the country to get away with it.

Please take your logical dissonance elsewhere. Better yet, ditch it and come back to reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Google Fiber

No need to get upset about a hyperbolic argument that was basically trying to make the point that Google had more than enough resources to wage war to defeat whatever roadblocks got in the way of getting its gigabit network built. But that’s assuming that the company considered Google Fiber to be a high priority in its overall business strategy, which was obviously not the case, considering how they basically threw in the towel when they could have easily continued the fight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Google Fiber

Hyperbolic, sure, whatever.

Contrary to your belief, Google doesn’t have unlimited resources to do whatever it wants and it does still have to do a cost benefit analysis. If they have to spend billions (by your assertion) in every city just to have the right to build out their fiber network, I’m sorry but that’s not a sustainable business model, even for Google. Sure they could fight in a few cities (and did) but if they have to do that in every city across America, that’s not just going to cost them billions but trillions or more! Google isn’t that rich, no company is.

The only thing Google is at fault for is underestimating how crooked and sleazy incumbent ISPs really are, how much they hate competition and how far they are willing to go to block other competitiors.

Again, drop your logical dissonance, bad facts, and come back to reality. The unabashed love for letting incumbent ISPs screw over their customers and any competition is not a good look for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Google Fiber

REALLY "JoeCool"? Google spent BILLIONS in court?

Actually, Joe didn’t say anything about billions or any other amount. He just said they spent more in court than building infrastructure. You’re the one who brought up billions and jumped down his throat for being "wrong".

And honestly, so what? Your post doesn’t prove him wrong and if Google is as rich as you say then they can spend billions in court and billions in infrastructure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Google Fiber

The issue is that even if Google was actually rich enough to buy out its adversaries and wear them down through attrition then the original Techdirt troll would actually have a point: that Google is the top lobbyist in politics, compared to the likes of the MPAA who decided it’d be a great idea to cuddle with Jim Hood until the Sony hack fucked that plan over.

Anonymous Hero says:

This reminds me a lot of presidential elections in the USA. No good choices, awful service (both candidates were narcissistic, compulsive liars), and dismal approval ratings.

The RNC and DNC act like a cartel, only allowing committee-approved candidates in to the presidential election to stifle competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You ran nearly this SAME trivia last week!

World War 2 lasted for years. You don’t think a lot of similar news pieces were run about that? If something of note is still happening, it is worth writing about until it stops being relevant. This is still relevant so what’s the problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Cox only went down -5% after slapping 1 TB datacaps on end users that are already paying $100 a month for 50-100 meg internet service. Then they have the nerve to offer a new “unlimited data” plan for only $50 more a month. I find it hard to believe that many users still approve of Cox. We have no competition though other than crappy, slow DSL.

Dan Guisinger says:

COX and CenturyLink

Surprised that both didn’t fare significantly worse. Recently left my landline phone/internet provider, CenturyLink, and moved to Cox (to reduce monthly cost $40). Sad, to put it mildly. Half dozen phone calls and/or online chats to BOTH, to successfully terminate one, and start with the other. Was a comedy of errors, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. Took two weeks to get it right. Hands down, the absolute worst customer service I’ve experienced in my 73 years — from both.

John Thacker (profile) says:

The problem with “local and state oversight of ISPs” is that it tends to be used to bolster monopolistic fiefdoms, not ensure competition. They have loved for years to sign exclusive franchises, starting with cable TV, partially because by guaranteeing exclusive franchises you can extract promises like universal coverage. With regulated monopolies, monopolistic profits in wealthier areas can subsidize service in poorer areas. Competition and good rates near marginal cost in the wealthier more educated areas can mean no service in the poorer areas. Local oversight of ISPs created so many conditions on FIOS that Verizon took much much longer to bring it to Baltimore and Boston. The regulation meant that when it did come it may have been more equitable instead of going to just wealthier areas first (the same way that Google Fiber did through their signup “fiberhood” strategy), but it did mean less competition.

When a natural monopoly exists, there’s room for regulation. But regulation (which is something separate from antitrust) also tends to decrease the number of viable competitors and encourage monopolies. Regulation is a good alternative when competition can’t exist, such as when there’s a natural monopoly and antitrust won’t work, but don’t confuse it for antitrust.

It’s quite difficult to simultaneously achieve universal service and equity along with competition and reasonable, close to marginal cost rates in educated and wealthier areas, as those goals conflict.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: heh

Oh yeah, brilliant suggestion. Here, let me cut myself off from my ability to do banking, manage my health, DO MY JOB, submit homework, and any other thing that life now requires people to have an internet connection for. THAT will show those greedy ISPs!

Ever heard of the saying “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”?

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