Comcast Apparently Hopes No One Actually Looks At Its Ridiculously Misleading Claims Of Broadband Competition

from the where-are-those-29-competitors dept

Comcast is ratcheting up its charm offensive (or perhaps that's just offensive charm) in trying to get its attempted merger with Time Warner Cable approved. It's released its "public interest statement" and a blog post about how wonderful the merger will be. There are plenty of ridiculous claims in both, but let's focus on the key one -- Comcast's decision to completely fabricate "competitors" in various markets to argue that Comcast competes "in a dynamic, expanding and highly competitive marketplace." Of course, for anyone who actually knows what broadband options they have at home are, this statement is clearly bullshit. But Comcast is going to pretend otherwise, because it's Comcast. This chart really takes the cake:
You see that? People in New York City have a wealth of competition according to, well, pure bullshit. Those "29 competitors" involve finding any company in the tri-state area that sorta, kinda offers something that if you squint and sneeze, you might sorta, kinda think maybe could be qualified as broadband if you were the last person on earth and really, really needed a barely working connection to the internet.

In the past, we've reasonably mocked the FCC's website listing broadband competitors,, because the results it gives are hilariously wrong and/or misleading. But Comcast's competitive claims take this to a new level entirely. Even if we rely on the National Broadband Map, I challenge anyone to find any spot in New York City where someone has anywhere close to 29 choices for actual broadband. Just for fun, I put in an address in the heart of midtown Manhattan, and it coughed up a (laughably misleading) claim of seven competitors. Except three of them (AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) are just 3G/4G service over your phones with very low caps and limited speed. Those accounts are explicit that they're not to be used for regular home broadband. So they don't count. You have, of course, the traditional competitors: Time Warner Cable (who Comcast is trying to take over) and Verizon.

And who else? There's just Lightower Fiber Networks and Platinum Equity LLC. Platinum Equity is the private equity firm that bought out MegaPath, a DSL company that has been around (in various forms) for many years, but is only focused on business broadband. Ditto for Lightower Fiber, which only serves businesses. So, oh look, if you want true residential broadband, guess what: your choice is Time Warner Cable or Verizon. And, remember, Verizon is actively trying to get out of the wired broadband market, handing its users over to... their main cable competitors. So, it might not be left until your only real "choice" in the heart of midtown Manhattan is... Time Warner... I mean, Comcast.

So, um, what's that about 29 competitors?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Arsik Vek (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Look, if Comcast was actually concerned about anyone calling it on any of its numbers, it wouldn't advertise the speeds it claims it sells.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:08pm


    Ah, but that's where the magic words 'Up to' come in, as it allows them to sell crap service and charge luxury prices for it, because technically, if you were the only one using that particular line, and all the electronics involved were running perfectly, and the stars and planets aligned, technically you could possibly reach the speeds they advertise, so that keeps such claims from being treated as false advertising.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re:

    It is not treated as false advertising because no one has grown a pair and sued them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Also, it's not technically false. It's misleading, yes. It's a lie, yes. But it's true. Your speed really is "up to" what they say. The real question is as long as they're lying, why don't they go all out and say "up to" 100 zetabytes/per second? That's just as technically true.

    This type of thing is exceedingly common in marketing and politics: lying without uttering an untruth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Matthew Prendergast, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:41pm


    I agree, the argument is crap. I live in Queens NY and all I have is TWC, Verizon Fios and possibly Dish or Direct TV if they have a satellite broadband. Comcast will get to buy TWC because politicians believe in regulated, legal monopolies. If the FCC really cared, they would allow comcast to offer services against optimum and TWC but they don't. They say it's about districts, so they created a legal monopoly for each company as opposed to giving the people a choice. So, there argument is not just the fizzle companies but they probably included the other cable companies into the argument, using them as competition when the state already saved them from it. It's a truth and a lie all at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    But of course they have massive competition. Don't dreams count for something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Trevor, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:42pm


    I have lived in three addresses in Riverside in the past 3 years. So far, our ONLY choices are Charter, AT&T, and Verizon. We had to go with Verizon on the last move because our house has NO SERVICE BY AT&T, and Charter sucks in this area.

    They all suck. But Charter takes the suck cake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    Hang on...

    ...I thought Comcast were given many billions of tax dollars in order to facilitate rural broadband services as well? So why just compare the metropolitan areas, unless the intention is to mislead.

    What Comcast executives should be answering is, "Where are the services you promised to deliver 10 years ago?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:52pm

    I live in the Miami area. Our 15 choices are really cell (but, as the article pointed out, can't work), ATT, or Comcast. But, there aren't 13 cell providers. CenturyLink might have a billing office, where they supply their own internal intranet...maybe that qualifies?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    MiaSol, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That will be the day.
    I'm on that bandwagon in up to 50mbps flat!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    limbodog (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    You all misunderstand. When comcast talks about competition, they mean the stuff they're showing on ESPN. They've got lots of that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    didn't sprint just say that they are going to turn off WiMax by 2015? and...their current 4G is the slowest of the 4?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    #4 ranked MSA reporting in. The table claims 33 competitors, says a total of 3 above 3Mbps in my ZIP code(including TW, Verizon). Dslreports lists a few now defunct otherwise only TW, Verizon. It seems Comcast are aggregating all suppliers who ever existed and still on the internet (defunct websites or not) and in all zip codes in the MSA to come up with a fantasy Grand Total.

    Happy Fios user here (Fios always beat their claimed speeds but cost too much, but what else is new).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    As someone from the Seattle-Tacome-Bellevue, WA area I can confirm that Comcast is indeed full of shit. There are /not/ a total of 25 'broadband' providers in our area.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Keisar Betancourt, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Uh no. If it's not physically possible it can not be "up to", so there is a ceiling on what that can mean. Unfortunately, there's no floor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    DogBreath, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sure there is a floor. Unfortunately, as far as the FCC and almost any big broadband provider is concerned, the floor is a two tin cans and a string (you will have to manually say all the binary ones and zeros).

    Of course you will have to rent the cans, along with a monthly "string management and maintenance fee", and you can't use your own cans or string because they're not company broadband approved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're talking like a logical human being, not like an advertising department. "up to" implies that under some circumstances it might be possible to achieve the rate following it. However, in the strictest possible reading, it does not actually mean that. It means that the service will never be faster than that.

    "Up to" is one of those red-flag phrases that indicates you are about to be deceived. Usually you see it used in relation to sales ("save up to 50%", sometimes followed by the logic-destroying addendum "or more"!)

    There's tons more of these sorts of misleading idioms in every product category. Years ago, I had a handy little book that listed a ton of them (it was part of the syllabus for a marketing course I took). I really wish I still had it or remembered what it was called...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 2:13pm

    Can we all go to the Broadband.Gov site and update the information?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 2:51pm

    Invisible Whiners

    You're all a bunch of f@&%ing pirates. Nobody on my payroll in Congress reads your rants.

    Tom Karinshak

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    MW67 (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    Comcast has virtually no competition in Chicago either

    It's sickening. You either have Comcast or At&t U-verse. Satellite has a ridiculously low data cap(10mb monthly) and as you have said any other competition would be mobile broadband for 3G/4G service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re:

    Too bad I can't pay "up to" the $49 they charge me for internet access.

    I should try that some time, just for the lulz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Nicci Stevens (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    Yeah I am in Seattle-Tacoma-Bellvue area. Before I moved I had two choices for broadband: Comcast 50mbps or CenturyLink (barely 1.5mbps). I don't get where there are 25 options because even including the consumer oriented broadband providers that did not provide service to me AND mobile operators (which is a joke) that comes in under 10. Now I live on a small island near Tacoma and mobile data is not an option so it's dialup or Comcast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Togashi (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except that their prices are always "as low as" $49. So while they give an upper limit on the speeds you'll get, they also give you a lower limit on the amount you'll pay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    My Name Here, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 7:49pm


    After reading this post, I was going to first say thanks for seeming to have ditched Karl Bode. That guy would have really turned this story into h8traid.

    That said, I think your test is perhaps equally as dishonest as the original claims made. The 29 figure is based on NY, NJ, and PA areas. They aren't claiming 29 competitors at every address. Nor for that matter are they claiming that the 29 competitors are equal, better, or lesser, only that they offer internet connectivity.

    You almost got the real point of the story right for a while, but then you lost it. When you mention companies like LIghtower and Megapath, you should have seen the reality: These companies have not entered into the residential marketplace because there isn't any money in it.

    The issue today is that cabling that last mile is cost prohibitive. The existing connections (cable tv or copper wire) is not going to be able to support a variety of service providers at the same time. So as an example, someone with cable TV from company A could not have that same wire deliver internet from company B.

    In order for companies to move forward, they have to look at the Google Fiber model, which is to toss huge amounts of money at setting up a fiber network. Cash flush Google can afford to do it (and can afford to be very wrong), but most companies are not in that position. In pure investment terms, FTTH is no financial viable at this point, and anything less is a total waste of effort. Few companies are going to make the effort when the return on investment is too low. If the business internet people refuse to get into residential even though they are right there, that should tell you everything you need to know.

    Blocking a merger won't change that reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    beltorak (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 8:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I usually hear "starting from". "As low as" seems to me to say that someone, somewhere is only paying $49 a month. "Starting from" is easier to justify. Sure, the price "started from" $49, then we "were forced" to add taxes, and taxes, and fees, and fees. So it started from $49 and ended up at $120.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    techflaws (profile), Apr 9th, 2014 @ 9:19pm

    Childish leetspeat aside, I haven't read anything by Karl here that would qualify as hatred.

    Blocking a merger won't change that reality.
    Allowing the merger to go through won't either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2014 @ 11:41pm

    Re: perhaps

    Then why wasn't this done when Comcast et al promised to in exchange for billions in tax relief?

    They have the money and the capacity to do this. But they don't need to. Because not one person has the stones to call these companies out on their bullshit. Because that's what they';re shoveling - to the public, to Congress and to the markets.

    This is why there was such an outcry over Netflix paying Comcast - because Comcast has not lived up to its contractual obligations. But you bet your ass that if you did that to Comcast, they would sue your ass right out of your home. So they should eat the cost, or become common carriers, like the utilities that they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Joe, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 5:43am

    They all suck

    A merger won't change anything as all cable companies except possibly Google suck. They get paid by consumers, cable networks , broadcast networks and now internet companies. They are all about providing the lowest possible quality of service without causing a subscriber exodus as they know the competition sucks too. Worst case they lose a sub for a year or two until they bolt from the only competitor in town.

    Competition in cable/broadband is a joke. Something should have been done 40 years ago. But the they weren't horrible companies riding on the coat tails of a local monopoly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Leonardo (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 7:33am

    Comcast Analysis is Faulty and Very Much Inaccurate

    Folks, NYC landlords get revenue from TWV or VZ Fios when they let them in the building. To date you will find one or the other. Therefore although there may be dozens of fiber lines under the avenues, the last mile to the consumer in New York City is usually ONE PROVIDER. The part that is tragic for consumers like myself is TWC has raised broadband prices thye last 4 years from $40 to $60 (50% increase) and the coaxial cable in my apartment is greater than 20 years at least. It is insulting to an intelligent consumer paying $60 for 9mps broadband connection when my friend in Mexico City pays $70 for a 300mps broadband connection. My freinds the U.S. economy depends on broadband and this type of last mile manipulation does not help the country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    John85851 (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 9:58am

    How come...

    ... no one else is calling them out on these "facts"? Where are the media or legislators (or even legislator aides) to point our that these figures are wrong, misleading, or both.

    Instead, every sees those figures as a part of a fancy presentation and says "okay, 29 competitors, sure, moving on..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:45pm

    Re: How come...

    "Where are the media or legislators (or even legislator aides) to point our that these figures are wrong, misleading, or both."

    There's no profit in any of them doing that, and there is profit in them avoiding doing that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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