For the past few months we’ve written a lot about two controversial potential mergers that have shaken the American Internet service and telecom landscape: A proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable and a not-yet-formally-proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. What has become fascinating to watch about each merger is the way that both Sprint and Comcast have gone about trying to convince the general public that it should support letting them become bigger and more powerful by acquiring smaller players.
Sprint chairman Masayoshi Son this week began his charm offensive by doing multiple interviews with several different media outlets where he talked about his vision for the American wireless market. In one interview, Son pledged to deliver a “massive price war” with AT&T and Verizon if Sprint acquired T-Mobile and built a network of comparable scale. In another interview, he admitted that Sprint’s network is “horrible” and said that if he had access to all the spectrum T-Mobile has, he could build a network that would easily trounce the networks of AT&T and Verizon, which he similarly described as “horrible.”
The message from Son was pretty clear: He thinks Americans are getting a raw deal on their wireless service in terms of both cost and quality and he wants to do better.
Now let’s look at Comcast. During a conference call with reporters last month, Comcast executive David Cohen said that Comcast was “certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly” if it merged with Time Warner Cable. What a contrast! We’ve gone from pledging a “massive price war” to saying that customers’ bill are still going to face sky-high increases no matter what.
And while Son has heavily criticized the state of the U.S. wireless industry and has pledged to make it better, Comcast has mostly said that it should be allowed to merge with TWC because both companies are already awesome and would make everything even more awesome if they were together. Comcast makes these claims despite the fact that both it and TWC have two of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any companies in the United States.
That’s not all: While Son has done interviews with several press outfits to make his case more directly to wireless subscribers, Comcast has been mostly content to do what it does best: Funnel cash to Capitol Hill to grease lawmakers’ palms. Comcast has already made $2 million in campaign contributions for the 2014 election cycle so far and last year it spent a whopping $19 million on lobbying lawmakers and regulators.
In a lot of ways, this stark contrast shouldn’t be too surprising: Sprint has long been the wireless industry’s biggest loser while Comcast has long been a powerhouse as America’s largest cable company. But judging from each of their arguments, which company’s case do you find more compelling: The one that’s pledging better service at lower prices or the one that can’t even promise that your bills “are going to go down or even increase less rapidly?”