Comcast Accidentally Admits It's Unsure Of The Competitive Impact Of Its Own Merger

from the trust-us-we're-the-cable-company dept

While debate over the Comcast merger had hit a bit of a lull for Thanksgiving, it was revived this week with the launch of a group calling itself the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition. Formed by a combination of companies like Dish and consumer advocacy groups like Public Knowledge, the group is lobbying to stop the merger on the grounds it harms competition, price and innovation across a number of markets, including broadband, television, and advertising. Of course, group participants Fairpoint Communications and Dish would likely give a limb to wield the kind of market power Comcast enjoys, but you're apparently supposed to ignore that and just applaud their selfless dedication to consumer welfare.

The unveiling of the group resulted in Comcast penning a blog post in which it slammed the new group for trotting out complaints that "weren't found to be credible" in the company's past transaction reviews (like when Comcast acquired NBC, then ignored the merger conditions crafted by itself). To hear Comcast tell it, the company found at least 600 "thoughtful and positive" people who think Comcast getting immensely more massive is a great idea:
"While it’s no surprise that the same competitors and special interest groups who’ve gone after Comcast in the past are at it again, the record tells a very different story. Over the last several months, the FCC has received an outpouring of nearly 600 thoughtful and positive comments about the transaction from a wide range of supporters. Unlike most of the criticism, the support has been very transaction-specific.

This support includes more than 100 Chambers of Commerce and business organizations, as well as a wide array of small businesses, start-ups, and technology companies. It includes more than 20 programmers, nearly 200 diversity groups and community partners, and over 150 state and local leaders of both parties."
Did we mention we pay most of these people for their support? I think we might have forgotten to mention that.

Kind of amusingly, Kate Cox at the Consumerist noticed that when Comcast originally blasted telecom reporters and analysts with an e-mail copy of its blog post, the company apparently forgot to proofread it and actually included some internal editing notes. Comcast has proudly and repeatedly stated that because Comcast and Time Warner Cable don't directly compete, the merger can't possibly be bad. Except, in its accidentally-included blog note, Comcast indicates that it wasn't entirely sure of this fact:
"We are still working with a vendor to analyze the FCC spreadsheet but in case it shows that there are any consumers in census blocks that may lose a broadband choice, want to make sure these sentences are more nuanced."
That's essentially Comcast accidentally publicly admitting that, even after a year of merger prep and defense, that it doesn't actually fully understand the impact of its own deal proposal. The note suggests Comcast had to pay an outside vendor to double check FCC data (provided to the FCC by Comcast), and then would have softened its rhetoric depending on what the analysis found. In a follow up e-mail to me, Comcast denies that it doesn't understand its own $45 billion mega-merger, but then adds to truly do so would take actually visiting some neighborhoods:
"Karl, our filings have detailed this issue in the past. It would literally take someone walking the streets or going down to a house by house map to find out if there is any actual overlap - and this would be if any likely in only a very very small number of homes."
Perhaps you should maybe go do that before repeatedly insisting there's no competitive overlap? Sure, it's true that the merger is more about vertical integration, programming leverage and monopsony concerns than direct market competition, but that doesn't make Comcast's stumbling, bumbling defense of the deal any less entertaining.

Filed Under: admissions, competition, fcc, honesty, mistakes
Companies: comcast, time warner cable


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  • icon
    Jay (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 8:02am

    TL;DR

    So... Long story short...

    "We're paid a lot of money on the taxpayer dime to lie to you and funnel your money to tax shelters while giving you horrible service"

    Gee, I wonder why people are upset...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2014 @ 8:23am

    Nuance

    Comcasts' idea of nuance is: 'If you want to split hairs, we'll shave the skull, now where is that next step in our plan for world (give us time) domination? We are owed for all the marvelous things we've done already, don't you want moar? Oh, and we want to take over both Verizon and AT&T next. BTW, ISP's should be content providers and content providers should not be ISP's. No doublespeak shall pass our pipes unless we double down on it.'

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

  • identicon
    PRMan, 4 Dec 2014 @ 8:35am

    As much as I am against the merger...

    As much as I am against this merger, you really are splitting hairs here. What they are saying is that when two companies "don't overlap" there may be some guy on a corner somewhere whose address technically qualifies for both Comcast and Time Warner. And they are afraid somebody will dig this guy up and parade him across the media saying, "See! Here's a guy that will lose his choices!"

    Of ALL the things you could be against in this merger, you wrote an article about this potential one guy?

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

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 9:07am

      Re: As much as I am against the merger...

      They have software (that you have access to right now) that can give a yes/no answer on if an address can get service or not. It would be just a matter of coding the software (that their marketing company probably already has) to make a map more accurate than most government work.

      Hell, they already have software that tells their sales specialists how much cable would need to be run to provide service to a specific location and how much it would cost.

      How many houses they currently have cable to or how many houses they could run cable to. Take your pick, they should have both (especially after a year of supposedly getting it).

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

      • icon
        pixelpusher220 (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re: As much as I am against the merger...

        Sorry, this is what the OP said. The statement is clear, 'we don't want to outright lie and say there's no competitive impact..so if we find an edge case where there might be we should acknowledge that in our statements'.

        That's them being normal and human (for a cable co. anyway) rather than proclaiming something they would know isn't true...if they found something that invalidated their statements.

        And while there might be some software that could tell them, the person writing this 'note' likely doesn't have any access to that is putting it here to handle cases that could possibly crop up.

        there are LOTS of things to be upset about, but this is missing the forest for the trees.

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

        • icon
          Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 10:21am

          Re: Re: Re: As much as I am against the merger...

          The point was that maybe Comcast should've figured this stuff out **before** proclaiming loudly months ago that there was no impact.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 11:15am

      Re: As much as I am against the merger...

      "Of ALL the things you could be against in this merger, you wrote an article about this potential one guy?
      Which one guy? Sena Fitzmaurice? Their female top PR representative? Also reread the last paragraph. I agree the overlapping competition with Time Warner Cable is the very least of this merger's problems.

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

  • identicon
    PIGS ARE FLYIN, 4 Dec 2014 @ 8:37am

    @3

    oh NOT one GUY OH NO , how about 1 million or 2 million or ...never mind your comment is as stupid as they come

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

    • identicon
      WhoBob, 5 Dec 2014 @ 11:34am

      Re: @3

      Your comment that about 1 or 2 million people currently are served by both Comcast and Time Warner is incorrect. As stated earlier, any overlap is minimal. Don't call other people stupid when you don't understand the issue and are wrong on the facts.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 4 Dec 2014 @ 8:51am

    Compulsive
    Obstinate
    Misinformational
    Communications
    Asshats
    Still
    Terrible

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 10:39am

    The competitive impact isn't the minor overlapping service area. It's the extension of the monopoly and the reduction of valid pricing comparisons.

    We know that most U.S. consumers pay far more for internet service than consumers in other well-served countries. This merger will further lock in that high pricing, with no potential competitor able to reach a scale that can challenge the monopoly.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2014 @ 4:57pm

    Hey - when you beat Monsanto for the title of Worst Company In America, that is really something to be proud of - yeah?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2014 @ 6:45pm

    I love how they trot out stats of support and 'It includes more than 20 programmers'. Could they only find 20 programmers to bribe for support? That's a hilariously low number. Hell, the start-up I work at has 60+ programmers... but of course none of them are pro this merger.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 5 Dec 2014 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      According to the BLS, there were 1,018,000 programmers in the US in 2012. So, yes, 20 is an absurdly low number. So low, it's effectively zero.

      Also, why would programmers have any greater insight into the pros and cons of the merger than anyone else? It's bit weird that they highlighted that.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 11:09pm

    Duhhh!

    (Miquetoast) We aren't sure our merger (slavering) will utterly crush our competitors heads and leave us as the reigning totalitarian monopoly...(Milquetoast)...*ahem*...negatively affect our competitors...(slavering) but we certainly hope so!!

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


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