Like a good exorcist, the Federal Communications Commission looks set to drive back the merger sent from hell. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai says that the FCC is very unlikely to sign off on any proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable because the Obama administration has shown itself much less likely to approve major telecom mergers — such as the blocked AT&T-T-Mobile merger — than a Republican administration might be. A merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which are the two largest cable providers in the United States, would further consolidate an industry that is already uncompetitive in many major markets. In addition to Comcast, smaller cable provider Charter has also been rumored to be interested in buying up Time Warner Cable.
Longtime readers know that I’ve been very critical of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable over their pricing policies, their service quality and their overall business practices. This is why I gasped in horror when I learned Friday morning that Comcast is talking with the Federal Communications Commission about what regulatory hurdles it needs to cross to merge with Time Warner Cable. More →
If there’s one thing that Americans have been clamoring for, it’s fewer choices when it comes to cable providers. CNBC reports that Comcast has been asking the Federal Communications Commission about the regulatory hurdles it might face if it tries to buy Time Warner Cable in a massive merger that would turn America’s two largest cable companies into an even bigger behemoth. While Time Warner Cable is apparently listening to several suitors’ offers, CNBC’s sources say that the company would prefer to be bought out by Comcast over any other competitor. More →
It happened, cord cutters… it really happened. Following a report from DSLReports, it appears as though Comcast has made a new Internet service plan available in some markets that really is a cord cutter’s dream come true. The new offering, dubbed “Internet Plus,” bundles 25Mbps Internet service with HBO GO, local TV channels and Comcast’s Streampix streaming movie and TV show service for $40 per month to for a year. The service then jumps to $70 per month after the first 12 months, which is still a bargain for cord cutters compared to other options out there (personally, I pay Time Warner Cable $60 each month just for 30Mbps Internet service with no TV package). The new Internet Plus service is not available in all areas, it would seem, but it will go a long way to answer the prayers of many cable subscribers who have dreamed of ditching all of the filler in their cable TV bundles but couldn’t survive without Sookie, Nucky and the Khaleesi. A screenshot of Comcast’s unicorn follows below. More →
There are times when you just have to tip your cap to Comcast for coming up with creative ways of swindling its subscribers. The company’s latest masterpiece has been the rollout of its channel encryption program, which now forces customers who have even the most basic television services to get all of their channels through a digital adapter box. More →
According to a recent report, Netflix is negotiating with several American cable companies in an effort to become a feature in regular set-top boxes. Comcast is one of the companies considering adding Netflix streaming to its boxes, The Wall Street Journal claims. Netflix has already struck such deals in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Why would Comcast be interested in boosting Netflix? One possible explanation is Breaking Bad. The cult show debuted to tepid ratings — the fourth season finale grabbed only 1.9 million viewers. But after Netflix added the show to its roster and offered it robust support, the show’s audience soared during its last two seasons. For its final episode, Breaking Bad was watched by a stunning 10.3 million viewers. More →
Twitter may have found a good way to shore up potential revenue streams ahead of its IPO. BGR sister publication Variety reports that Twitter has partnered with Comcast on a new initiative called “See It” that will let users “record and watch NBC Universal programming directly off the social media platform.” Here’s how it works: Twitter will add a “See It” button to Comcast customers’ Twitter feeds that will let them watch their favorite NBC Universal shows online through any device they’re using or to access their television’s set-top box to start recording the show. While the Comcast deal isn’t likely to be a huge money-maker for Twitter, the microblogging site could see a nice boost in revenues if it negotiates similar deals with other cable companies and content providers.
It’s true that Comcast has been aggressively boosting the speeds on its network, but it may only be a pretense for getting its customers to fork out even more money per month than they already do. The Washington Post’s Timothy Lee takes a look at several charts showing both speed and pricing tiers for Comcast and concludes that the company is acting “more and more like a monopolist” because “while every tier of Comcast service is faster than it was a decade ago, the rate of progress has been dramatically higher for customers who pay the most.” More →
The idea of a la carte cable programming that would allow subscribers to pick and choose the stations they pay for is one that we have all dreamt of for years now. Some pay TV executives tease us from time to time and talk about how a la carte options might become available at some point in the future, but at least one CEO isn’t shy in stating that cable operators will never split up channel packages. ”If you had to pay separately for just PBS, probably, sadly, not a majority of Americans would do that,” Comcast’s chief executive Brian Roberts told PBS in an interview. “So there’s many channels, whether it’s Discovery Channel or C-SPAN or many, many others, that just aren’t viable. You can’t just buy the sports section of The New York Times. You take the whole paper.” Roberts also noted that he believes pay TV streaming startup Aereo is breaking the law by stealing content and rebroadcasting it without permission. Comcast’s NBCUniversal is one of several broadcasters currently suing Aereo in an effort to have the service shut down.
Comcast has the lowest customer satisfaction rating of any ISP in the United States and now it’s exhausted the patience of an entire city. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Baltimore’s city government is hiring “a broadband Internet consultant that would help the city develop a plan for expanding Internet service provider options for businesses and residents.” More →
Comcast seems to have heeded warnings from many observers that the “six strikes” anti-piracy system favored by Hollywood is impractical and impossible to carry out fairly. Unnamed sources tell Variety that Comcast has been testing out a new initiative where “a consumer illegally downloading a film or movie from a peer-to-peer system like BitTorrent would be quickly pushed a pop-up message with links to purchase or rent the same content, whether the title in question exists on the VOD library of a participating distributor’s own broadband network or on a third-party seller like Amazon.” Variety’s sources say that the new policy would be offered as a compliment instead of an outright replacement for the six strikes policy, which essentially gives users up to six different notices or warnings after they download pirated content before throttling their Internet speeds or blocking their access to certain websites.
Several cable companies are currently capable of offering Internet service that meets or exceeds the blistering 1Gbps speeds enjoyed by Google Fiber subscribers. In fact, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts showed off a demo of a 3Gbps cable broadband connection just last week at the annual National Cable Television Association’s Cable Show in Washington, D.C. ”I hope there’s a demand for [Google Fiber],” Roberts said during a keynote speech. “The more customers crave speed, the more the kids in the garage and the geniuses around the world can invent applications that require speed. That’s the best thing that can happen to our industry. We have to embrace that competition.” Heartwarming though his words may have been, the cable industry’s actions paint a very different picture. More →
It seems that cable companies really don’t think that American consumers need 1Gbps Internet services such as those offered by Google Fiber. We’ve already seen both former Time Warner Cable CFO Irene Esteves and National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell dismiss delivering gigabit connectivity as “an irrelevant exercise in bragging rights,” among other things. And now we have Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen, who has penned an editorial for The Philadelphia Inquirer insisting once again that offering gigabit speeds would be pointless because “most websites can’t deliver content as fast as current networks move, and most U.S. homes have routers that can’t support the speed already available to the home.” More →