Big and Shitty is the American Success Story

Comcast just bought Time Warner Cable. Let’s look at the lies:

In among general promises of “a superior video experience, higher broadband speeds, and the fastest in-home Wi-Fi” for consumers, the press release also puts a figure on the operational cost savings this merger is expected to produce: $1.5 billion.

Let me translate for you from the native corporate bullshit. “A superior video experience” means “cable TV” or “video that will work as long as you’re not streaming Netflix“. “Higher broadband speeds” means “a measly jump up from our current speeds, but nowhere near what you can get over fiber, or even the maximum you can get from cable”. “Fastest in-home Wi-Fi” probably means that the router they install in your house uses the latest Wi-Fi standard, but it certainly doesn’t mean that your connection to the rest of the world will be as fast as, say, the connection from your iPhone to your router. And do I really need to point out that “operational cost savings” means “keep fucking our workers“?

No matter, because the cable industry has already gotten legislation passed in 20 states to limit municipal broadband, which keeps cities and towns from laying fiber to the home and providing reasonably priced, uncapped, fast Internet access. Instead, big and shitty cable monopolies will continue to provide mediocre service because Jesus pushed the socialists out of the temple.

79 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    The swines.

  2. 2
    NotMax says:

    As a very, very elderly acquaintance used to say, “You’d bitch if they hanged you with a new rope.”

  3. 3
    Walker says:

    While the FTC probably cannot stop this, there is a possibility that the FCC can. Regardless of markets, it is a bad idea to have one cable company that controls the lions share of the content providers.

  4. 4
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    I’ve had Comcast for 10+ years and think it’s an excellent service.

  5. 5
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    @NotMax: So I guess I should just quietly prepare my anus when stuff like this happens?

  6. 6
    NotMax says:

    BTW, to those with internet over Comcast, be sure you have changed your password.

  7. 7

    Why don’t they just go for the whole load and merge with AT&T Uverse and call it TPC (as in the excellent 1967 James Coburn film “The President’s Analyst“)? They’re gonna end up running the country anyway; might as well get it over with.

  8. 8
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: And I had the opposite experience. I’m so glad I’m with Verizon now. For a long time, where I live in Southern Maryland only had Comcast. It was an awful experience.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix

    No need for such a large and time-consuming regimen.

    Register your displeasure with your legislators and any appropriate agencies each step of the way.

  10. 10
    Bruuuuce says:

    Balls. As much as we feared TWCNYC’s service, it’s proved to be pretty good. I hear horror stories about Comcast, on the other hand, and hope the FCC has enough cojones to stomp this deal (“Bambi Strikes Back at Godzilla”?)

  11. 11
    maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor says:

    @NotMax: And after you do all that, get busy prepping your anus for the inevitable.

  12. 12
    Botsplainer says:

    I’m just enjoying a recollection from about 14 years ago of telling a foot dragging service manager at my local cable company that due to their third blown service appointment, I was going to drive to their HQ office, tape her name to my modem and cable box as being her fault, and heaving both of them through separate plate glass windows.

    Got a tech about an hour and a half later, and didn’t have to follow up on an earlier message I left at the home of the VP of operations.

    I guess we can’t have that sort of interaction now, as TWC bought up that company, and now we’ll get Comcast.

  13. 13
    Lee says:

    I’ve had TWC (a.k.a. RoadRunner) here in North Texas for 10+ years.

    They have had their problems but they have always been responsive. It helps that Verizon fiber is less than a mile away (slooooooooowwly expanding) and I live in a fairly upscale suburb.

    I still oppose this merger.

  14. 14
    PaulW says:

    I live in a place where fiber optic wasn’t laid down, and we’re stuck with either cable companies or dish. I couldn’t even keep my Verizon DSL moving from one city to another just 6 miles away. There is no direct competition in this county for all I know, and the rates are pretty high.

    Who can file an anti-trust to bust this near-monopoly?

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    @maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor

    The inevitable?

    Tell it to T-Mobile.

  16. 16
    Davis X. Machina says:

    I don’t think you can underestimate the threat to the the free market that is posed by competition

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    The more of this they do, the closer they get to being regulated as a utility.

  18. 18
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: They regulate utilities? How quaint. How 1980’s. However do you proactively leverage your dynamic synergies if they do that?

  19. 19
    Cassidy says:

    It’s always regional. We Comcast now. They’re the best service in our area. Other places I’ve been, they suck. Just like cell service.

  20. 20
    Judge Crater says:

    Comcast is the Goldman Sachs of the media world. They will, as George Carlin used to say, shove the big red, white and blue dick up the consumers ass till the cows come home. That’s what they do.

  21. 21
    Citizen_X says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: @Cassidy: Yeah, I think it’s up to the regional management. Comcast sucks in my area–always raising the rates two months after they give you a discount, and reliability stinks.

  22. 22
    raven says:

    How come everyone gets all fussy about prison rape jokes but cable anal rape is cool?

  23. 23
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @raven: You make a very good point.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    The problem is they don’t directly compete for the same consumers because they operate in different areas. Opponents of mergers such as these have a tougher case to make than if they were direct competitors.

  25. 25
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @NotMax: Tell it to T-Mobile.

    What in the world does that mean? You’re aware, I hope, that T-Mobile is Deutsche Telekom, the former monopoly PTT in Germany, which is just as happy to be doing exactly the same thing as Comcast is doing, in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and all the components of the former Yugoslavia?

  26. 26
    Tokyokie says:

    And meanwhile, countries like France, South Korea and Japan offer Internet speeds that are twice as fast as one can get over here for about half the cost. We are so screwed.

  27. 27
    Cervantes says:

    No need to act as if this is a done deal.

    Not long ago, the Justice Department and the FCC blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. They prevented the combining of the second- and fourth-largest companies in that market. This Comcast/Time-Warner deal would mean the combination of the first- and fourth-largest firms in this market. Yes, cable and wireless markets have different features. Still, there are activists in DC who will oppose this deal on various grounds. You can help them. (Public Knowledge is one example.)

  28. 28

    I have Comcast here in South Florida. It sucks dry green donkey hooters. I got a TiVo three years ago and therefore am blocked from getting On-Demand. The HD channels regularly pixelate, they drop out, and at least once every couple of weeks I have to have them send a refresh signal to reboot the whole house.

    One time when I called about blank screens, they informed me that I didn’t have HD service, that I’d never signed up for it, and would I like to upgrade now? I replied, “Are you effing kidding me? I’ve had HD service for three years, I had it yesterday, and now you’re trying to upsell me?” For this I’m paying the tidy sum of $132 a month.

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    No matter, because the cable industry has already gotten legislation passed in 20 states to limit municipal broadband, which keeps cities and towns from laying fiber to the home and providing reasonably priced, uncapped, fast Internet access. Instead, big and shitty cable monopolies will continue to provide mediocre service because Jesus pushed the socialists out of the temple.

    When pushed to the edge, this is the kind of case where conservatives will end up saying “all right, that’s bad, but the problem isn’t capitalism, it’s crony capitalism with the government interfering in the market, which is really socialism.” Then enthusiastically jump to “THEREFORE WE SHOULD DEREGULATE…”

  30. 30
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris: Wait. You think there are “conservatives” who’d say it’s bad that laws are being passed to limit municipal broadband? (I guess it depends on what you mean by “pushed to the edge.” Niagara Falls? The Empire State Building? Tartarus?)

  31. 31
    West of the Cascades says:

    @Mustang Bobby: I don’t understand how the same company can provide such shitty service in one place and pretty good service elsewhere. I’m in the “never really had a problem, like fairly Comcast fairly well” camp. Then again, I have a relatively modest cable package, no HD, and high speed internet (just checked – 60 Mbps download speed this morning) for $105 per month. We seem to have some competition here in Portland but I haven’t really checked since Comcast works fairly well.

    All that said, I’m glad to see Oregon is not on that list of states that bars municipal broadband and hope that Justice or the FTC tries to block this sale.

  32. 32
    lol says:

    It also doesn’t help that there are no shortage of hucksters overpromising municipal broadband and then leaving cities on the hook for money when they go to shit. Fuck up Hippy Mayor McGinn got suckered by a pretty website for a company with no experience doing this and then when things started going south, told voters that Murray would kill the project because he was “Mayor Comcast”. Unfortunately for McGinn, Gigabit died before Murray took office so he wasn’t able to shift the blame though plenty of his supporters still think Murray is to blame.

  33. 33

    @West of the Cascades: I think a lot of it has to do with local infrastructure. I know a number of my neighbors have the same issue with weak signals; in my part of town all the utilities are underground, a lesson learned from Hurricane Andrew which pretty much wiped my neighborhood into the Everglades in 1992. I also know that on weekends they foist the customer service to their call center overseas (where I’m greeted by “Kevin” who has an accent like Rajesh Kutrapali on “The Big Bang Theory”). He’s very nice, but he’s reading off a screen and can’t deviate from it. As for not being able to get On-Demand, they blame it on me having a TiVo and not their DVR.

    The only competition is AT&T Uverse, which I hear is even worse. I can’t have a dish because I rent and the landlord doesn’t want to mess with it. So there we are.

  34. 34
    Death Panel Truck says:

    We dumped Charter cable but kept the internet and phone. It cut our bill in half. I just couldn’t see paying $75 a month for TV I almost never watch. Now they keep calling us, saying, “Hey we noticed you have internet and phone but not cable. We have a special offer for you!” My wife says, “We dumped cable in January. What don’t you understand about that?”

  35. 35
    SarahT says:

    I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with both TWC and Comcast – just grateful we now have RCN.

  36. 36
    lol says:

    @Chris:

    They complain that the market is distorted but do nothing to fix it since municipal broadband is socialism and they don’t want to enable that.

  37. 37
    Cervantes says:

    @lol: “Hucksters”? Maybe, but given the lack of financing, it’s interesting that, apparently, no other Seattle-area institutions are prepared to take up the slack.

    Also, one wonders if the Chicago deal is still salvageable.

  38. 38
    Bill Arnold says:

    Time Warner Cable does not switch my IP address; it can stay fixed for a year. (A long power outage ends up resetting it.)
    This has been very handy. (e.g. I can tunnel through ssh, check webcams, house temperature while on vacation.)
    Fortunately in my area, Verizon FIOS is aggressively competing with TWC for customers.

  39. 39
    lol says:

    @Cervantes:

    Centurylink is trying but are running into regulatory issues that treat them differently than Comcast.

  40. 40
    Joel says:

    I was an OTA guy until the digital conversion. Stations were broadcasting digital OTA pretty reliably pre-transition. But once the transition happened, they cut their signal. I’m thinking the FCC allowed them to. Still grumpy about that one.

  41. 41
    Walker says:

    So here is my story of why I hate Comcast.

    I had Comcast while I lived in Dallas. I got an appointment at another university and moved to another state. When I disconnected my cable, I physically delivered the box to the office and they told me the account was closed.

    Cut to three months later when I get the collection agency telling me that the cable at the address (that I no longer lived at) was still active and that I had not payed my bill. It was a bitch to get that off the credit report (though I did before buying my house).

    That and their on-demand pixelates like crap.

    Charter should buy Time Warner. They made the first offer and are a better company.

  42. 42
    muricafukyea says:

    95% cut/paste from the orange satan dkos. Muckymux phones another one in.

  43. 43
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Last week, I read this article about how cable companies are using politics to strangle local broadband in the crib and was suitably pissed off. (And, of course, I enjoyed the irony that “free market”-loving GOPers are the ones doing the telecos’ bidding so that they don’t have to compete in the beloved free market.) I can easily see this as being another one of those things where we lag well behind the rest of the world, but the wingnuts loudly insist that no, we are the BEST because we are ‘MURRICA!

    Also, Comcast and Time Warner will merge to form the worst company in the world.

  44. 44
    muddy says:

    @Death Panel Truck: I tried to do that, they told me it would cost $90 just for the internet, no phone. I say you advertise that for $60. No, that’s for new customers, they say. I said another place just offered me under $100 for all of it, would they like to meet that price for the lesser service? Absolutely not. Then they had the nerve to say that I was already getting such a great deal that I should be grateful they have saved me so much money so far.

    At that point I decided to quit them if they offered me service for $1, assholes.

    I told them that when I switched to them from a dish, the dish people said, “why didn’t you ask us, we would have matched the price”. I wasn’t aware places did this. So now I am offering that opportunity to you. Here’s a customer paying $160, who is willing to give up over half the service in order to cut the bill. Could have a customer paying $100 with no additional work on their part, but no. They would rather have $0 when I cancel them shortly.

    I presume they think I am only threatening and won’t go to the trouble. I ended the conversation with Comcast by saying perhaps I would check out their new customer deals in 2 years when my new contract ended. Or perhaps not, as I didn’t like being told to be grateful for the opportunity to overpay for service.

    And the dvr on the cable is horrible anyway, there are no folders for each series. Just one long list of every show you have dvr-ed. Also when you make your own list of channels you can’t just stick with your list, you have to select it every single time you go to the guide.

  45. 45
    Linnaeus says:

    I think this video about The First Honest Cable Company is fitting.

  46. 46
    cmorenc says:

    Switched from TWC to ATT U-Verse, and am very happy so far with the switch. Quite noticeably better hi-def 1080 picture, 20MBs internet with 100MBs becoming available within the next 12-18 months in my neighborhood, residual land-line phone inc. any long distance (a mostly moot point in the cell phone age)…all for much less than I was paying before.

  47. 47
    boatboy_srq says:

    @West of the Cascades: Funny you should mention the service and pricing: Verizon FiOS where I am offers HDTV, phone service and decent broadband (50MB down) and including HBO, for $79/mo (and the same service without HBO from Comcast here is that same $105 you’re paying).

    Comcast is decent – so long as nothing breaks. From service and customer support in two regions all I’ve seen is indifference, ineptitude and the cable equivalent of Ernestine basking in the near-monopoly glow that only comes when there’s nothing the consumer can do but grin and bear it. I’ve been through a handful of cable boxes and three DVRs in less than two years’ worth of service from them, and each support call has been the most grudgingly-provided service experience I’ve encountered since I was a Pac Bell customer.

  48. 48
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @PaulW: GOP in state lege have their tongues up monopoly service providers posteriors. I’m sure in NY and so on you have big money Dems who do the same and consider it “tough” politics.

    Too many assholes, not enough boots to break off in them.

    In Florida the bought and paid for GOP lege made it illegal for municipalities to regulate cable tv rates. Charming, isn’t it?

  49. 49
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Cassidy: Just like CVS. Or Freshpoint. Or any other super conglomerate that bought its way to top 5 status.

    One unit in one town hums like a bee, but elsewhere they’re bleeding money and have angry customers jumping ship.

  50. 50

    We had Comcast when we used to live in DC area, their customer service was non existent then, and now it is going to get worse.

  51. 51
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @raven: because joking about prisoners getting raped is sadistic and cruel, whereas acknowledging the completely unequal relationship of the “contracted” “customer” of cable services to the oligarchic cable company, a relationship CHARACTERIZED BY COERCION is a way of blowing off steam, black humor.

    Also, too, if I joke that I’m gonna need lube that’s a far sight from “Har har, YOU (not me) are gonna have a new boyfriend named Bubba now, snort, giggle.”

  52. 52
    Another Holocene Human says:

    The people that always get screwed the worst by these monopolies are businesses (or sole proprietors), people who can’t just say, fuck you, I’m unplugging because their livelihood depends on that telephone line, fax line, internet hookup, server uploading connection, super high speed connection….

  53. 53
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Just some reminders for a little perspective:

    • Americans pay four times as much as the French for an Internet triple-play package—phone, cable TV and Internet—at an average of $160 per month versus $38 per month.

    • The French get global free calling and worldwide live television. Their Internet is also 10 times faster at downloading information and 20 times faster uploading it.

    • America has gone from #1 in Internet speed (when we invented it) to 29th in the world and falling.

    • Bulgaria is among the countries with faster Internet service.

    Americans pay 38 times as much as the Japanese for Internet data.

    I’ve had two different packages in France, Orange and Free, and both had all the things mentioned above. It’s hard to even compare the prices given the free worldwide calling and etc, but I know I was stunned when I was quoted Comcast prices back here in the US.

    On the other hand the year I got it at least, Orange’s sole choice for US cable news in any cable lineup/package was FOX News. My jaw dropped. In my experience they just don’t get the US in enough detail to realize what FOX actually was, would be my guess, and were susceptible to the sales pitch from the evil ones.

  54. 54
    🎂 Martin says:

    @Walker:

    Charter should buy Time Warner. They made the first offer and are a better company.

    They should all die in a fire. Repeatedly.

  55. 55
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Cable/internet in the US is kind of like healthcare — people honestly don’t understand how much better the rest of the world has it.

  56. 56
    Cervantes says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    Also, Comcast and Time Warner will merge to form the worst company in the world.

    I know you’re being facetious here and that’s fine, but I’ll take the opportunity to add a serious note.

    Here (Norwegian Ministry of Finance) and here (The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland) are two reasoned lists of “worst companies in the world.” (The second one has responses from some of the companies named.)

    Comcast is not much fun to deal with (or pay) — but when it comes to abusing the earth and its inhabitants, it’s a piker.

  57. 57
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s been my experience. People puff themselves up and make all sorts of outlandish claims, e,g, “Well sure, if you like waiting six months for appointments!”, having no idea what they’re talking about since they’ve never experienced it first hand.

    The funny part about things like cable/internet is that people imagine these socialist state-run monopolies, whereas there’s actually far more competition, even if highly regulated.

    It’s just being populace-centered, whereas we’re basically tilted toward favoring corporations in pretty much everything. Individuals are valued as consumers, not as citizens.

  58. 58

    When people sing the praises of the free market, they think of perfect competition, where all the buyers and sellers have equal say but most businesses want a monopoly because they want to be price setters not price takers.
    If you think about it there are very few markets where perfect competition exists. Oligopolies and monopolies are by far more common.

  59. 59
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    And this is the story of corporate America.

    They HATE HATE HATE actual competition, and will do ANYTHING to get rid of it.

    Free Markets, my ass. They loathe them. They loathe having to compete on price or quality, because to do so cuts into profit and CEO compensation, and WE CAN’T HAVE THAT!

  60. 60
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Some obscure Scotsman identified this tendency over two centuries ago. Fortunately, for the greedy assholes who run corporate America, few have read his book.

  61. 61
    West of the Cascades says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Isn’t it painful that, probably, more people holding federal elected office today have read Ayn Rand than Adam Smith?

  62. 62
    NotMax says:

    @Gin & TonicWhat in the world does that mean?See Cervantes’ comment #27.

  63. 63
    burnspbesq says:

    Enforcing the antitrust laws has been out of style for a while, but a deal this anti-competitive could bring it back from the dead.

    That’s the hope, anyway.

  64. 64
    West of the Cascades says:

    @boatboy_srq: That sounds like a very good deal. Verizon’s FIOS website informs me that “the service you have requested is not available at [your] address.”

    Ain’t competition grand??

  65. 65
    burnspbesq says:

    @Walker:

    Charter should buy Time Warner. They made the first offer and are a better company.

    Charter’s “offer” was a joke. Time Warner’s board held out for more, and got it, which is what the current interpretation of Delaware corporate law requires them to do. The Time Warner board has no obligation to consider the public interest or the interests of its subscribers. That’s why we have DOJ, the FTC, and the FCC.

    There are plenty of arguments that can be made for the proposition that this system is fucked up, but until you can convince the Delaware legislature to change the law so that directors have fiduciary obligations to other stakeholders beyond the shareholders, this is what you get.

  66. 66
    Cervantes says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Enforcing the antitrust laws has been out of style for a while, but a deal this anti-competitive could bring it back from the dead.

    “Out of style for a while”? “Dead”? Really?

    When did AT&T announce its intention to buy T-Mobile USA? How long before it abandoned the attempt? What came in between?

    Perhaps you mean there ought to be more anti-trust enforcement? This would certainly be an arguable proposition.

  67. 67
    Linnaeus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    They HATE HATE HATE actual competition, and will do ANYTHING to get rid of it.

    Capitalism really isn’t about competition. The successful capitalist eliminates the competition.

  68. 68
    C.V. Danes says:

    The best thing I could ever say about Time Warner is that at least they weren’t Comcast.

    This sucks on so many levels.

  69. 69
    LanceThruster says:

    Before I moved, I liked Charter Communications better than TWC, which I have now. The digital feed is crummy and half the time my OnDemand won’t load, and when it does, 3/4’s of the time it’s choppy.

    Their service personnel are pleasant but I shouldn’t have to be calling them as much as I do. Even Charter’s menu features were superior.

  70. 70
    Trollhattan says:

    In my metroplex the absolute shortest list one could compile would be “Satisfied Comcast customers.”

    “Fans of the black widow spider” and “We love Pertussis” outnumber them eleventy to one.

  71. 71
    jc says:

    Here’s a good overview re: the future of the Internet … an interview with the author of: “Captive Audience” —

    http://www.amazon.com/Captive-.....e+audience

  72. 72
    Anoniminous says:

    We haven’t bothered to cable-up. Anything we want to watch immediately or eventually shows up on the Internet or we can buy the DVD.

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:

    @Cervantes:

    One outlier. No trend.

  74. 74
    Cervantes says:

    @burnspbesq: Two assertions. No data.

  75. 75
    pacem appellant says:

    As a Netflix employee, this really burns. Other countries don’t have to put up with this bulls**t.

  76. 76
    Glocksman says:

    Joy.

    My provider is the former Insight Communications, which was bought by TWC last year.
    Now TWC is going to be bought by Comcast.

    Though to be honest, I haven’t noticed any difference in service after Time Warner bought Insight.
    My perspective may be skewed though, as I only have broadband because I don’t watch enough TV to justify paying for cable and use my cell as my sole phone.

    I am fortunate to the extent that if TWC goes to shit because of Comcast, I can switch either to WOW! cable or U-Verse DSL.

    That said, I’d rather have my teeth pulled without sedation than switch to WOW!.
    8 years ago before WOW! bought them out, the local operation was known as Sigecom and was also known for having the absolutely most incompetent and or lying tech support around.

    Every time I had an outage, they’d blame either my modem (I bought my own rather than rent one) or my computer.
    Finally it got to the point where I bought a modem from them after they swore up and down it’d fix all of the problems.
    Of course it didn’t, and after getting a refund on the modem I switched to insight.

    In fact, the RCA DCM-315R modem that Sigecom said was the cause of all my problems back in 2005 is still going strong.

    On another subject, does anyone have an opinion on Chromecast?
    I’m thinking of getting one so I can watch movies on my TV instead of my PC.

  77. 77

    Andy Borowitz is on the job, with “A Letter from Comcast and Time Warner Cable.”

    Personally, I’ve been avoiding cable internet and television for years. Expensive and just too many bad customer support stories for my comfort.

  78. 78

    @Glocksman: Generally, Google’s products work. They aren’t usually very sexy, and sometimes they don’t catch on, but they work. Consumer Reports likes Chromecast. It does Netflix, too.

  79. 79
    AnonPhenom says:

    No matter, because the cable industry has already gotten legislation passed in 20 states to limit municipal broadband, which keeps cities and towns from laying fiber to the home and providing reasonably priced, uncapped, fast Internet access.

    The game is rigged. The only hope of getting the ISPs to start giving us better broadband coverage is to threaten them with a cheaper but equivalent alternative system that has the potential to destroy their market share and steal the game right from under them.

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