Predictions

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
competition, merger conditions

Companies:
comcast



A Perfect Storm Of Comcast Unaccountability Is Brewing

from the utterly-Comcastic dept

If you've been napping, Comcast lobbyists recently convinced the government to kill net neutrality rules, dismantle broadband privacy protections, and bury efforts to make the cable box market more competitive. And they're just getting warmed up. Comcast lobbyists have also successfully convinced the Trump administration to eliminate nearly all state and federal oversight of large telecom monopolies. Should they be successful, consumers and innovators will face a massive new era of little to no accountability for one of the most despised, least-competitive business sectors in America.

This new wave of regulatory capture comes at an inopportune time for American consumers and the nation's startups. Comcast was already facing less broadband competition than ever in many markets thanks to incumbent telcos effectively giving up on upgrading millions of aging DSL lines. With neither government oversight nor healthy competition present to keep Comcast in check, the company's awful customer service has become legend, and the rise of arbitrary, unnecessary fees and usage caps have become the norm.

As an added bonus for Comcast, the conditions applied to the company's 2011 merger with NBC just expired over the weekend, raising additional concerns about the potential impact of an unshackled Comcast on the emerging streaming video market. Those conditions prohibited Comcast from charging streaming competitors unfair rates, or from meddling in Hulu management to prevent disruption of Comcast's own services. They also required Comcast adhere to some aspects of the FCC's 2010 net neutrality rules, even if they were dismantled in court (they were).

With the DOJ suing to block AT&T's own media megamerger, some FCC Commissioners are wondering why Comcast gets a free pass here:

On the one hand, several of the conditions didn't mean all that much, since voluntarily proposing your own meaningless conditions is a long-standing tradition in the telecom space. And in many instances Comcast was found to have ignored them completely, a lack of trust in Comcast's word being one of the reasons that regulators blocked Comcast's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Still, some of the conditions were important, and last year analysts warned that their expiration could allow Comcast to find new, creative ways to screw over competitors and consumers:

"The conditions have served as backstop against any concern about anti-competitive behavior that would have arisen,” said Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC.. "All those concerns will be front and center again if Comcast is completely unshackled from these rules."

Comcast, for its part, unsurprisingly argues that oversight of Comcast is no longer needed because the streaming video market is just so damn competitive:

"All of the market segments in which we do business are more robust and more competitive now than they were before our NBCUniversal transaction, including the explosive growth of online video distributors," a company spokeswoman said.

But again, we're not just talking about the death of NBC merger conditions. Should Comcast's assault on net neutrality survive the courts, and should ISPs be successful in gutting FCC, FTC, and state oversight of ISPs, things could get cumulatively very stupid, very quickly. There could soon be literally almost nothing standing between Comcast and an ocean of anti-competitive possibilities, whether that's using unnecessary usage caps to make streaming video from competitors be more expensive, or using licensing restrictions to try and drive competing services out of business.

Under this new zero-oversight scenario, Comcast could easily use interconnection shenanigans to drive up rates for competing content companies. It could engage in paid prioritization, giving Comcast and Comcast's partner's content an unfair leg up in the market. Comcast could ramp up use of zero rating to penalize competitors. And, under Comcast lobbyists planned scenario, there's not much the FCC, FTC, or states could do about it.

There's still a segment of folks that believe that eliminating all regulation in the telecom sector somehow magically results in Utopia. And while this deregulatory approach may work in more functional, competitive markets, that's simply not how the telecom sector (where Comcast holds a natural monopoly over the last mile) works. You need either healthy competition or objective, sensible regulatory oversight to prevent abuse. If you hadn't noticed, we've got neither. And instead of fixing the problem, we're doubling down on letting Comcast run roughshod over an already very broken market.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 11:22am

    Maybe that's what's needed to make things change. It's said that sometimes you need to hit the bottom before having a chance to get up and improve. I mean, sure it's painful but give the world a few years and the US will be lagging so far behind in anything resembling progress that it will be fairly easy to enact meaningful rules to stop such behavior and foster competition.

    Meanwhile we should all buy Comcast shares because it seems it will be a nice year. If you can connect, of course.

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

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:35pm

      Re: Bottoming out

      ...or the regulatory whiplash between Democrat and Republican FCCs drive up costs for everybody so much that no investments are made in ISP infrastructure at all. Which would likely lead to more municipalities and states to roll their own.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:56pm

        Re: Re: Bottoming out

        " the regulatory whiplash between Democrat and Republican
        FCCs drive up costs for everybody so much that no investments are made in ISP infrastructure at all"

        BS. If there is really no place to grow then they would just GTFO. As stated here in Techdirt before, they can argue these or those rules are hurting investment, but their reports (obligation by law) to shareholders have a different story, investement has grown up, even with "all those rules".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      Except many drug addicts that thought they had reached rock bottom (from where to "rock bottom" argument comes from) were wrong, and kept reaching new lows, until death.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 11:45am

    Last mile

    How is it that the cable companies ended up owning the poles that carried electricity before those companies existed?

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

    • icon
      Chris-Mouse (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 11:51am

      Re: Last mile

      They don't, but they have managed to get a bunch of rules in place that make it difficult and expensive for anyone else to attach wires to those same poles.
      Comcast, or the companies Comcast has bought out, have spent the better part of half a century building infrastructure that connects pretty much everywhere. If you want to compete with Comcast, you're going to need enough money to build that same infrastructure in 10% of the time, and do it while fighting through every roadblock Comcast can think of to slow you down.

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

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Last mile

        And not even Google succeeded at that.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:48pm

        Re: Re: Last mile

        Agree with you, except:

        "that connects pretty much everywhere"... No they don't, that is why there is still so many areas and persons with bad connection or none at all.


        "If you want to compete with Comcast, you're going to need enough money to build that same infrastructure"
        No you don't. Just some rules need to be changed, so you can hang form the same poles as they do. As per your own comment: "They don't [own the poles], but they have managed to get a bunch of rules in place that make it difficult and expensive for anyone else to attach wires to those same poles."

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 9:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Last mile

          No you don't. Just some rules need to be changed

          Go ahead, change them. Oh, wait - Ajit Pai did that for you.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:43pm

    FUN TIME

    Ok,
    Lets do this RIGHT..
    STOP ALL RULES/LAWS/REGULATIONS for corporate protection..

    ALL OF THEM..
    INCLUDING STOCK MARKET PROTECTIONS..
    THEN lets TELL them that ALL stocks must be paid back.. the STOCK MARKET ISNT A BANK, and SHOULD NOT BE USED AS SUCH..

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

    • identicon
      Iggy, 23 Jan 2018 @ 2:30pm

      Re: FUN TIME

      In politics, any "principles" are always one-sided in application and usually for the benefit of the wealthy who are the ones in charge. The Comcast CEO, a self proclaimed "Objectivist" has no problem with the FCC forbidding states from making net neutrality rules, working with governments to control utility poles, and having the FCC regulate spectrum. Letting ISPs control access to information is "Freedom". Pole attachment reform is not.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 9:46pm

        Re: Re: FUN TIME

        Letting ISPs control access to information is "Freedom".

        Oh, you from Oceania, you double minus learnt a thing.

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

      • icon
        Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 2:16pm

        Re: Re: FUN TIME

        Good observation. You should also learn the term "useful idiot"

        In America these are called Libertarians. Whenever a corporation needs to get around some sort of pesky BS like not polluting, treating your workers fairly, not paying taxes, etc... they bring out the useful idiots, who talk about their libertarian gospel along with the church of the CATO think tank.

        The end result is ALWAYS that a/the corporation gets a profitable new entitlement.

        For instance, here we are talking about Comcast and AT&T as if they are real companies, which they aren't.

        They are government backed duopolies who do little to nothing that they aren't forced to. To hear these people talk about having choices when the only choice is AT&T or Spectrum is like talking a crazy street preacher. Pointless.

        well that's not "reeeeeeeel libertarianism" bla bla bla...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:45pm

    Stop talking about Comcast or AT&T as if they were real people. "Comcast tried to do this"... "AT&T tried to do that"...

    Talk about specific (real) persons, with names and last names, the director of this or that department of said companies, or whoever leads the charge in any of these cases.

    That goes for countries too.

    Say names bitches, names!

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

  • icon
    Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 10:16pm

    President Trump is a reasonable man...

    ...just like Hillary, knew nothing about computers or the Internetz. If only the President had people who specialized in computers advise him on such matters he would probably realize this is bad for business.

    Oh....wait a second..nevermind. I forgot, 'you people' are too busy 'resisting' and yacking about the Russians, and violently shaming any business or technology leader who dares advise his administration.

    In other words, you got exactly what you wanted...

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 24 Jan 2018 @ 9:15am

      Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

      Blocked.

      There's an expression on the Internet that you're supposed to say when you dismiss somebody, right? Can't seem to remember it. Tip of my tongue...

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

      • icon
        Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 12:06pm

        Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

        "YOU PEOPLE" made advising the elected president of the United States a thought crime.

        CEO's and other leaders who were asked by the president to serve in his administration, were SHAMED AND ATTACKED AND THREATENED with weaponized lawsuits.

        SO WHAT THE HELL DID YOU MORONS EXPECT TO HAPPEN!?!?

        The president is an executive, one who makes decisions based on the advise and expertise of others.

        YOU SHAMED THE EXPERTS AWWAY!

        GOOD JOB! Now you have exactly what you deserve.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2018 @ 5:33pm

          Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

          Before those advisors were shamed, the President picked them, so the shaming speaks volumes about his choices.

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

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 8:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

          expert?

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

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 8:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

          expert???

          EXPERT...
          IN MY OPINION is someone who knows TECHNOLOGY..not the person that is the boss...the person who knows HOW it works..

          A REAL TECH PERSON...in ANY business knows about HOW it works, why it works HOW to improve it..and all this other stuff..

          He IS NOT the person that has NEVER SEEN THE BACK END OF A TRUCK or wonders what that BELT is around your waist..

          He is GENERALLY not the person WHO HIRES others to water his lawn..

          99% of the CORPORATE MONGRELS...CONTROLLING THE companies.. DONT KNOW HOW ANYTHING WORKS..

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

          • icon
            Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 9:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

            You are a perfect example, a caricature of yourself. Did you read what I wrote?

            I mean, to be clear, the parts after the first 5, that's called a headline or title.

            Anyway, I can't respond to you, because honestly, I don't know wtf you are even talking about?

            But I will try. Sure, i would say, somewhere on the order of half of all CEO's & Boards of Directors, are clueless idiots who inherited their positions thanks to friends and has nothing to do with their abilities or skills.

            (for example Chelsea Clinton sitting on the board of directors for two companies, is an example cronyism, which infects a large number of corporations today...)


            HOWEVER, the other half are people of ability. For instance, Elon Musk is just plain fucking brilliant, and deserves everything he has worked to build. Same thing goes for Peter Theil. Unfortunately, many of those leaders weren't there to advise Trump, EVEN from the periphery, because of the toxic environment created by the new Democratic Party, headed by George Soros, and the other less visible large donors.

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 7:53pm

        Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

        Not sure if it's even related to what you're referring to, but the traditional sound-effect of someone hitting the bottom of one's killfile is "plonk".

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

        • icon
          Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 9:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

          It's probably not, since you've not only failed to make any sense, but you seem to not even have made an effort, to make sense.

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

          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 25 Jan 2018 @ 4:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

            Did you misread the threading? My comment was not made in reply to you.

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

            • icon
              Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 25 Jan 2018 @ 11:44am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

              Probably, blame Microsoft's shitty scaling and font rendering....

              but I would stil like to know what this means?
              > the traditional sound-effect of someone hitting the bottom of one's killfile is "plonk"."

              Were you saying that this shill has run out of anti-trumpisms and refuses to self-examine his own role in the destruction of net neutrality?

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

        • identicon
          Thad, 25 Jan 2018 @ 10:21am

          Re: Re: Re: President Trump is a reasonable man...

          Not what I was referring to, no.

          Take another look at the name of the user I was responding to.

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


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