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Let’s hope the FCC isn’t as stupid as Comcast thinks it is

September 23rd, 2014 at 7:45 PM
Comcast Time Warner Cable Merger FCC

Hey, you know how you hate Comcast but are sticking with it because you literally have no other option when it comes to broadband services that deliver downloads at a rate faster than 6Mbps? Well, Comcast thinks you’re crazy because you have plenty of options for home broadband in your neighborhood, including your wireless carrier, your municipal fiber network and Google Fiber. No, I am not making this up.

Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin flags a recent filing that Comcast made with the Federal Communications Commission claiming that it needs to be allowed to buy Time Warner Cable because it just faces so much competition from everyone.

“New entrants like Google fiber, municipal providers, fixed wireless providers, and satellite broadband providers also are competing vigorously,” Comcast writes. “And well-capitalized and aggressive nationwide mobile broadband providers now offer services that provide speeds comparable to many of the fixed broadband services that consumers purchase.”

Where to start here? Well first we can point out that while Google Fiber actually is giving incumbents like Comcast and TWC some real competition, it’s doing so in only three markets so far and, despite Google’s ambitions to expand the service further, has shown no indication that it’s ready for a nationwide launch across most major American cities.

Comcast’s claims about municipal broadband providers are even more ridiculous since Comcast and its fellow big cable companies have led the charge in several states to either stop municipal fiber networks from spreading or to stop them being built at all.

And as for the idea that wireless carriers are giving Comcast a run for its money, surely Comcast knows that America’s two largest wireless carriers impose data caps that slap users with hefty overage fees for going over their monthly limits, right? How is that sort of offering in any way comparable to the unlimited data that fixed wireline services offer?

Further down the spiral, Comcast claims that this robust competition makes switching ISPs incredibly easy for most customers, who are just overwhelmed by the plethora of high-quality options for home broadband service and who have no problems dumping their current providers for their competitors.

This claim is particularly rich because, as Ryan Block’s infamous customer service call from hell showed this summer, many Comcast retention agents are an unholy cross of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Indeed, I’m personally scared that if I ever try to unsubscribe to Comcast, I’ll wake up in a pit dug deep in someone’s basement and hear an ominous voice shout at me, “It signs up for the Triple Play or else it gets the hose today!”

What this all adds up to is that Comcast thinks very little of the FCC’s intelligence if it believes these sorts of arguments will be accepted as legitimate reasons to sign off on its proposed TWC merger. Let’s just hope the FCC proves the cable industry wrong and is much brighter than it’s being given credit for.




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