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?