Cable Giant Altice Demonstrates Why A Lack Of Broadband Competition Matters
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
So, we’ve noted for a long time how US telecom giants, facing neither competition nor meaningful oversight, never have to try very hard. Thanks to their regional monopolies and duopolies over broadband access, competitors in many areas never really force them to compete on price, expand access into lower ROI areas, or shore up atrocious customer service. And thanks to the federal and state corruption that protects these regional monopolies, lawmakers generally don’t much care — outside of some occasional empty lip service to that nebulous, causation free “digital divide” they all profess to care so much about.
This week French-owned US cable giant Altice once again showcased what this apathy looks like in practice. The company announced it would be cutting the upload speeds on its broadband tiers by 86 percent, while still charging users the same rate. Why? Because with no decent options for most of its subscribers to flee to, there will be absolutely no penalty for it.
Of course Altice can’t be candid about that fact, so it tried (and failed) to find some other justification that sounded at least marginally coherent:
“Altice claimed that its cable network isn’t having any trouble offering its current advertised speeds. “Our network continues to perform very well despite the significant data usage increases during the pandemic and the speed tiers we offer,” the company said. The upload-speed change is apparently being implemented not to solve any network problem but to match the slower upload speeds offered by other cable ISPs. Altice told Ars that it is changing its cable upload speeds to bring them “in line with other ISPs and aligned with the industry.”
So there’s no technical reason to be doing this, they’re just exploiting an uncompetitive market. So for example whereas the company used to offer a tier of 100 Mbps downstream and 35 Mbps upstream, new users now get to pay the same money for speeds of 100 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream. Existing customers will be able to keep their existing tiers, but the second they go to change their plans (which will be mandatory if they’re seeking new bundle promotions) they’ll lose their faster speeds and be shoveled off to inferior product.
To be clear this is a regional mono/duopoly abusing a lack of competition in its service area to actively make its service worse during the tail end of the pandemic. And because US regulators are so feckless and/or corrupt, not only will there be no action taken here, you’ll be lucky to even see a single regulator or politician even mention that it ever happened. After all, with “big tech antitrust reform” sucking all the policy oxygen out of the room (something telecom has actively encouraged), there’s just no energy left for reform in any of the countless other heavily consolidated US business sectors.