Comcast Was So Incredibly Full Of Crap During Its Merger Sales Pitch, The Government Is Considering Additional Punishment

from the whoops-a-daisy dept

While Comcast's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable may be dead in the water, information revealed during the company's ugly but often entertaining merger sales pitch may come back to haunt it. When Comcast started selling regulators on the idea of the Time Warner Cable merger, you'll recall it highlighted repeatedly how Comcast should be trusted because it had done such a bang up job adhering to the conditions placed on its acquisition of NBC Universal. Except when regulators tried to verify this M&A claim (which is already rare enough in telecom), they discovered that not only did Comcast write most of the conditions itself, it still somehow managed to repeatedly fail to adhere to them.

For example Comcast had to be fined $800,000 by the FCC for failing to offer and clearly advertise a relatively paltry 5 Mbps, $50 per month broadband tier. Similarly, the company's Internet Essentials program, which promised 5 Mbps, $10 broadband for low income communities and was a phenomenal PR boon for Comast -- at one point resulted in Philadelphia street protests for being hard to find, qualify, and sign up for. It was also revealed that Comcast ignored conditions intended to keep the company from hamstringing Internet video competitor Hulu, which it acquired as part of the NBC deal.

So yes, Comcast, you're really great at adhering to merger conditions, just as long as nobody actually bothers to look at how well you adhere to merger conditions. Given how closely the FCC had looked at whether companies adhered to merger conditions in the past (as in: not at all), Comcast's hubris here was understandable.

Most insider accounts had already suggested it was Comcast's lies surrounding the NBC deal that somehow chaffed regulators the most, though the unrelenting consumer loathing of the company certainly played a role in pressuring the DOJ and FCC to do the right thing by consumers. Interestingly, regulators are still so annoyed by Comcast's distortions -- and are so awash in evidence of bad behavior after the review (covering everything from advertising to poor treatment of minority-owned stations) -- that they're actually considering taking some additional action against Comcast:
"They’re sitting on a ton of potential evidence,” one source close to the process explained. "They’re asking themselves if they can create a separate proceeding or whether they need a new complaint to allow [the evidence] to be introduced."...Regulators may view the fact that Comcast didn’t win approval for its purchase of TWC as enough of a punishment, sources said. Others point out that the NBCUniversal deal terms need upholding — even after the TWC deal failed."
In short, the conversation at the FCC currently focuses on whether having the Comcast merger blocked is enough punishment for being immeasurably full of shit, or if regulators need to take some additional action to punish the company for being immeasurably full of shit. I'm guessing the former (with this data stored for ammunition in future interactions with Comcast), though that this is even a point of conversation at the FCC gives you some idea of just how immeasurably full of shit Comcast really was.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 6:22am

    I can just see Monacle Guy meme here only it's just a turd.

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:13am

    I'd like to know why the FCC/DoJ/FTC have taken this long to finally realize what consumers have been saying for decades is now true.

    While it's great these entities are starting to fight for consumers, the billions made make any fines laughable. $800 million? Against a company with earnings over $7 billion a year? Waste of time.

    The FCC/DoJ/FTC should do to Comcast what it forced AT&T to do given their monopoly power: break up the business. Force Comcast into the roles of content provider, ISP, and communications provider.

    By doing this, only then will true competition be readily available for consumers. By allowing any single company to own it all, everyone but the company suffers for it.

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

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:18am

    How is 'no' enough punishment for this?

    Suppose yesterday my child asked for a cookie, and I said only if you clean up your toys, books, clothes, and feed the fish. And I trusted them and did not check their room, despite their being a giant cable company. Then today they asked for another cookie, and claimed they should get it because of the great job they did yesterday. So I go check the room, and the toys, books, and clothes are in a giant pile on the floor and the fish is dead. Should I just slowly back out of the room, and say "No cookie today. Try again tomorrow." and let that be the end of it? No way. If there is not a memorable repercussion for misbehavior, the undesired behavior will be repeated.
    If the FCC is considering just backing away, and saying "No cookies this time." then they really need to work on their giant cable company parenting skills.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 10:15am

      Re: How is 'no' enough punishment for this?

      So... is it wrong that I still think we should split this brat in half? "No cookie"? How about "you owe me a fucking cookie!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:32am

    Is anyone else starting to get the feeling Tom Wheeler reads Techdirt?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:35am

    So instead of one slap on the wrist, they get two?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:43am

    And it's neck and neck

    Karl Bode has just gained +3 Swearing

    Updated scores (Shit):
    Mike Masnick - 13
    Karl Bode - 13

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 7:45am

    I'm fairly sure Comcast are so incredibly full of crap, period.

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 2 Jun 2015 @ 8:03am

    And you wonder why...

    And you wonder why I call it Comcrap? I have to deal either with AT&T or Comcrap. I have AT&T now. I will NEVER subscribe to Comcrap. I am NOT a happy camper! Our community was going to install a community owned fiber to the home internet a few years ago, AT&T and Comcrap spent million$ to defeat the referendum, which they did. I recently spoke with some neighbors about that. They all said that they voted against the referendum because of the bogus advertising by those ISP's, and now all wish they had not... We all now spend more, but get less...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 8:23am

    Good work Karl, bump up your curse-word ranking!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 8:49am

    18 USC 1001 (a)

    ...whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive... branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
    (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
    (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
    (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
    shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years...

    You most often see this when people lie to the FBI (it's one of the things Hastert was charged with) but it's no less applicable when someone lies to the FCC. This is a felony.

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

  • identicon
    J, 2 Jun 2015 @ 11:07am

    So there was an agreement made, the US govt upheld their end of the bargain, and allowed the Comcast / NBC Universal merger to take place, yet Comcast has willfully failed to uphold their end of the agreement. The solution is obvious, nullify the merger, and force Comcast to sell off NBC Universal.

    That would be the solution I want to see, and I know I am not alone.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 11:24pm

    Shit beyond measure. That's Comcast's motto.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2015 @ 5:46am

    Looks like a lot of Comcast customers in DOJ/FCC.

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

  • icon
    Geek-Mo (profile), 3 Jun 2015 @ 2:41pm

    Comcast, legislators, customers - it's a money game

    ... fined $800,000 ... that was 3 years ago. And haven't been bad since?
    May 4 2015, Comcast reported quarterly net profit of $3.183 Billion US Dollars.
    They can be fined same amount 3,980 rimes

    Suggestions for Government:
    Enforce Sherman Antitrust Act as they are they are a monopoly in markets servicing their customers. - Note disambiguation between claimed provided service & satisfied customers

    Abusive monopolist & monopsonist (?) practices.

    Classify them as a public utility since they offer telephone service

    Use the FCC, FTC & Attorney Generals.

    Address money circle - consumers pay Comcast, in turn pay lobbyist who persuade lawmakers, that were elected to represent best interest of by the same people who pay Comcast.
    Local municipalities don't care as long being paid franchise fees & free services.

    Triple hit as cable, broadband & phone are utilized on the same equipment.

    Fine for the excrement spewed from the mouth David Cohen to politicians & consumers as misleading, inaccurate and/or untrue statements

    What they offer in commercials and actually provide & charge are two distinctly different things.
    False advertising (as Cohen above) - acceptable service, rates (change when & as much as they deem without prior notification), unachievable download & upload speeds, and imaginary charges & hidden fees

    Prostitution since I’m paying them to screw me; & I wasn’t even kissed first
    Sorry, attempted humor

    Invasion of Privacy for data collection? It's acceptable if it's hidden or buried in being serviced agreement?

    As synergies are a theory found often in speech but rarely in practice, arguing that one and one together equals three. Used attempting to convince people when acquiring other companies. Dis-synergies (thanks Meg Whitman) could be realized,
    Comcast is not considered "Too Big to Fail" - break it up: cable TV, broadband, telephone, business services, advertising, security, customer (lack of) service - could be outsourced, equipment rental & infrastructure leasing, and NBC Universal,

    Tell politicians won't re-elect due to their lack of action. If not their place to do something, then elevate & pressure those people. They were elected to represent and act on behalf of their constituents and not do as they wish or how lobbyists influence them.

    Get shareholders involved by fining crap out them. Shareholders don't care as long as they’re making money. Start taking their money away (quarterly dividend) and they'll begin applying pressure to Board of Directors who will force management that might loose their jobs.

    Money talks & bullshit walks

    Apologize for my long-winded loudmouthed opinions
    Don't understand how allowed to continue operating as being the lowest rated company in the lowest rated industry for consecutive years Yet have such control over service & rates/fees without government oversight, regulation & intervention.

    Disclosure - I haven't worked for Comcast nor done business with them. Haven't been a stockholder. Displeased with governments & politicians lack of action. Also not a satisfied customer.

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

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