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Old 02-14-2014, 10:10 AM   #5
Atlanta Dan
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Default Re: Comcast buys Time Warner Cable for $45 billion

What could go wrong - the best telecommunications systems in the world will only get bester

Analysis of how the crap sandwich served to U.S. telecom customers will only get tastier here

The Real Problem with the Comcast Merger

Among household expenses, few things have risen quite as quickly as the cable bill. As recently as the nineteen-nineties, cable prices ranged from seven dollars to eleven dollars and fifty cents per month. After years of price hikes, a decent cable package is now over sixty dollars a month; the average cost is eighty-six dollars. Comcast, in 2013, collected about a hundred and fifty-six dollars a month on average, per customer—and some people are paying much more than that....

Comcast, in announcing its deal, has said nothing about how it might save consumers money. Instead, it calls the deal “an exciting opportunity” for its customers, promising “accelerated deployment of existing and new innovative products and services.” I suspect that I’m not alone in thinking that a lack of excitement isn’t what most customers call to complain about. Everyone, even people in the industry, knows that the prices are too damn high. But tellingly, nowhere in any of its materials does Comcast suggest a plan to do anything about it. So just what makes this merger in the public’s interest? ...

With a larger customer base and more buying power, Comcast would be left with several time-tested techniques for reducing competition and increasing prices. For Comcast, that’s the exciting part. ...

The crazy part is that this deal would actually put Comcast in a position to lower prices, if it wanted to. It could use efficiencies of scale to cut the price and increase the speed of broadband. It could use its buying power to negotiate better deals with ESPN, Viacom, and other programmers, passing on the savings to customers. That’s what the company would do in a parallel universe where it faced actual competition. But passing on savings has never been part of Comcast’s business model, and, absent a corporate lobotomy, it may never be.

And here

We Need Real Competition, Not a Cable-Internet Monopoly

As residents of the country that came up with Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Internet, we like to think that we lead the world in communications and entertainment. And we’re certainly ahead in one way: we pay far more for broadband Internet access, cable television, and home phone lines than people in many other advanced countries, even though the services we get aren’t any better. All too often, they are worse.

Take the “triple-play” packages—cable, phone, and high-speed Internet access—that tens of millions of Americans buy from companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In France, a country often portrayed as an economic and technological laggard, the monthly cost of these packages is roughly forty dollars a month—about a quarter of what we Americans pay. And, unlike in the United States, France’s triple-play packages include free telephone calls to anywhere in the world. Moreover, the French get faster Internet service: ten times faster for downloading information, and twenty times faster for uploading it....

In Seoul, triple-play packages start at about fifteen dollars a month—yes, fifteen. In Zurich, otherwise a pretty expensive place to live, they start at thirty dollars. When it comes to stand-alone services, it’s a similar story. In Britain, for example, monthly cell-phone charges start at about fifteen dollars; unlimited broadband starts at about twenty-five dollars a month. And, if you buy a television that was built since 2008, you get access to Freeview, a digital television service that provides more than sixty television channels, about thirty radio channels, and about a dozen streaming Internet channels, all at no cost.

Why are things so different, and so expensive, in the United States? There are various answers, but by far the most important ones are competition and competition policy.

But Comcast has paid good $$$ for influence in Washington and now it is time to call in the IOUs to get this merger approved

Time Warner Cable Deal to Test Comcast CEO's Washington Clout

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts has spent the past five years making friends with the Obama administration, but he faces a host of unknowns on the regulatory front. The government review is likely to be lengthy and could touch on everything from cable prices to the way web traffic is prioritized.

The expected marathon regulatory scrutiny may become a measure of the company's clout in the capital, and in particular that of its senior executives. Mr. Roberts sits on a presidential jobs council, has hosted President Barack Obama and top presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett at his Martha's Vineyard home and has also golfed with the president.

Comcast executives have been generous donors to the Democratic Party and enjoy regular access to senior administration officials. Mr. Roberts and his wife, Aileen, have donated $417,290 to Democrats over the past 25 years, compared with $116,150 for Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets website.

The company employs a host of former FCC officials in its lobbying office and is one of the most visible players in Washington. It spent $18 million on lobbying in 2013, making it the seventh-highest spender overall, according to Open Secrets.

It regularly hosts events for members of Congress, their staffs and other policy types in the capital.

Comcast employees made a total of $6.5 million in campaign contributions during the 2012 election cycle, including $466,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $305,000 to the president's campaign for re-election....

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen is a major bundler of contributions for the Democrats, and has hosted a number of prominent fundraisers featuring the president at his home and other venues. Of the almost $870,000 Mr. Cohen and his wife, Rhonda, have donated to campaigns, 79% has gone to Democrats, while just 9% has gone to Republicans.

Mr. Cohen and his wife attended Tuesday night's White House state dinner in honor of French President François Hollande.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on donations by its employees.

Comcast's lobbying and regulatory team includes Meredith Attwell Baker, a former Republican FCC commissioner who voted in favor of the Comcast-NBC Universal acquisition four months before she joined Comcast.
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” - H.L. Mencken
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