The Future = Now x Acceleration

When Comcast Comes Pounding

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No longer content to rest on it’s allowed and enforced monopoly laurels, Comcast is now sending out a targeted, door-to-door sales force that is intent on finding out once and for all why you are not their “customer” or they will actually beat down your door to find out why.

Comcast LogoThis disturbing new trend, and what it subtly signifies, further cements my opinions regarding the intersection of allowed monopolies and the scaling back of government regulation to practically zero. We are reaping the accelerating benefits of what 30 years of “deregulation” has sowed coupled with the wholesale abdication of any kind of common sense oversight to “the marketplace.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a competitive free market, but notice that pundits and oligarchs today are not talking about a “competitive free market” but “the marketplace.”

The difference is subtle, but important.

Our story starts the other evening while preparing for dinner. The kids were working on h0mework and dinner was seconds from being brought to the table when….

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! … BAM! Pounding. Not knocking. Pounding, on the front door. Hard enough to rattle the heavy oak door in its frame and send shock waves through the hardwood floor across the parlor.

Mayhem. Dog barking / growling; kids in gleeful meltdown mode; cats running, scurrying / jumping. One attempts to climb the curtains.

My wife hurriedly greets the Comcast representative that just obliterated the peace and quiet and tells him through the closed screen door that she doesn’t have time to talk and, anyway, we are not interested. The conversation goes like this:

My Wife: We don’t have Comcast.
Him (snottily): Yeah. I know. Why do you think I’m here?
My Wife (now very annoyed): Sorry. We’re not interested. (starts closing the door)
Him: Whaddaya mean, “You are not interested?” Who do you have now? I can beat what you are paying now.
My Wife: Nothing. We watch free TV over the air. I said, “We are not interested.” Goodbye.
Him: Well who do you have for Internet?
My Wife: No one. We don’t have Internet. Like I said. We’re not interested. Goodbye. (closing door)
Him (yelling): What?! How is that… You are lying. Wait! What?

It takes a few minutes to calm down the kids; the cats; the dog (who is now on the alert for “threats.”) Dinner commences. 10 minutes into dinner again, even louder…. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! BOOM! BOOM! (China in the cabinet rattles.) This time, the door is neither answered nor acknowledged.

To fully appreciate my umbrage at this incident, one has to go back to the spring of 1990.

Jones_IntercableA public affairs reporter, I was sitting in the gallery waiting for the Geneva (IL) City Council to begin its meeting when I saw 4 impeccably-coiffed men in charcoal gray suits file in and sit up front and off to the right.

This is never a good sign.

As it turns out, they were from Jones Intercable (now part of Comcast) and when they were recognized to speak after the meeting started, they announced the following:

  1. In response to the federal government’s continued deregulation of cable television, they were increasing the basic cable package cost 233 percent; from $7.25 / month to $16.95.
  2. Since the council and citizens utility board no longer had veto power over the prices Jones Intercable charged, there was nothing they could do.
  3. And since there was still 9 years left in the city’s 15-year contract, if Geneva tried to break its contract with Jones Intercable and try to get a competitor to serve the city’s residents in its place, the company would sue the city and Jones would win.
  4. Just be glad you are not Villa Park, because that village’s rates were $39.95 / month. We might decide to impose that on you.

The four men then left for the parking lot where they smiled and laughed; patted each other’s backs; and attempted to perform high-fives, but were hampered by the fit of their charcoal gray suits. I followed them out and interviewed them in the parking lot in the midst of a beautiful spring sunset.

The city council did everything it could do – which is to say that it passed a resolution protesting the unilateral breach of contract.

“Whereas the City Council finds that the increase in basic cable television rates to $16.95 have been imposed without explanation as to the need for said increase and, therefore, arbitrary and excessive increases without relationship to cost of service. The City Council further finds that since the deregulation of the cable television industry, rates imposed upon customers have been escalating at rates far in excess of any public or private utility rates and, therefore, the need for governmental regulation is warranted.”

Harsh, yet toothless, legalistic bluster continued.

World Internet SpeedsIn a few short years, cable television provided will be allowed to use their naturally-broadband cabling to provide Internet service in order to compete with DSL – which was, itself, very expensive and limited in bandwidth.

Comcast’s closest deal today is for a 2-year contract that averages $50 / month for just the cable TV service. That is a 690 percent increase from the original 1990 rate of $7.25 / month and a 295 percent increase over the price that Jones Intercable raised the service to ($16.95 / month.)

Using a little quick math and the consumer price index published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices overall have risen 15.7 percent since 1990 for the kinds of goods and services a utility provides. Even if you compound that rate every year, that would still only be $30 / month now from the $7.25 Jones Intercable originally charged. Compounded annually, the $16.95 that Jones raised the service to in May 1990, would be $70 / month.

Now I know that CPI is not compounded annually and that the cost of living compounds at between 1 and 3 percent annually. But even compounding at almost 16 percent annually, basic cable service doesn’t come close to what Comcast is actually charging for an equivalent tier of service nowadays.

So what would compel me to pay that price for Comcast’s service? Broadband speed? Excellence of customer service? Surely 20 years of excessive profits have amassed a vast resource from which telecoms have exponentially increased consumer broadband speed and service. Right?


Akamai Research places the average U.S. broadband connection at 5.8 megabits per second — 13th in the world.

South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland, Ireland, Czech Republic, Romania and Belgium are currently one-through-ten on Akamai’s fastest list.

South Koreans average 17.5 Mbps with peaks of 47.9 Mbps (!). Japan averages 9.1 Mbps. When you have fiber optic coming into the home, you tend to get fast broadband. The last time I saw fiber optic in someone’s home, it was lighting one of those fake trees you see for sale in Spencer Gifts.

So Comcast, with it’s globally inferior service and pricing tier that fulfills the greatest dreams of avarice why is Comcast sending out shills to pound on my door? They have an allowed monopoly for cable service in the city and a complete lack of local governmental oversight.

They weren’t visiting our neighbors who have Comcast service, only us. From the tone of his voice and the choice of his words, the implication was clear:

“How dare you refuse to pay for our service. You are denying us the service fees which are rightfully ours.”


Written by digitalanalogues

April 12, 2013 at 5:20 PM

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