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Krugman: Say No To Comcast Acquisition of Time Warner 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the fight-the-power dept.
nbauman writes "In his column, 'Barons of Broadband' New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says: 'Comcast perfectly fits the old notion of monopolists as robber barons, so-called by analogy with medieval warlords who perched in their castles overlooking the Rhine, extracting tolls from all who passed. The Time Warner deal would in effect let Comcast strengthen its fortifications, which has to be a bad idea. Comcast's chief executive says not to worry: "It will not reduce competition in any relevant market because our companies do not overlap or compete with each other. In fact, we do not operate in any of the same ZIP codes." This is, however, transparently disingenuous. The big concern about making Comcast even bigger isn't reduced competition for customers in local markets — for one thing, there's hardly any effective competition at that level anyway. It is that Comcast would have even more power than it already does to dictate terms to the providers of content for its digital pipes — and that its ability to drive tough deals upstream would make it even harder for potential downstream rivals to challenge its local monopolies.'"
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Krugman: Say No To Comcast Acquisition of Time Warner

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  • Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Cat (19816) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:29PM (#46271043)

    Of course they don't compete. Cable companies have government-sanctioned monopolies.

    I'd say give them a choice. You can merge if you relinquish your monopoly.

    Then we'll see what's most important to them.

    • Re:Ok (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:42PM (#46271137) Homepage Journal

      Well, in a lot of places they have competition from fiber, and places where they *don't* are places where building out a competitive network is unprofitable. Relinquishing the monopoly on cable would be no big deal.

      Krugman's point is that consolidating all those places where cable is the only game in town gives them a powerful middleman position. The monopoly has done its damage as far as the market is concerned; you can take the legal monopoly away and the de facto monopoly on access to the market will remain.

      • Re:Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:58PM (#46271249) Journal

        De-regulation along the lines of the power companies? In other words, break apart "generation" and "distribution"......make TV/broadband one entity and then make the lines themselves a different entity. Have the distribution entity charge customers the same rate scale so that other companies can compete on equal footing.

        • by cusco (717999)

          Because that worked so well with Enron.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            Because that worked so well with Enron.

            You think Enron blew up because the separated the transport from the content?

          • by icebike (68054)

            Enron had nothing to do with this situation, and its problems stemmed from inventive accounting, not anything to do with monopoly.

            • by cusco (717999)

              Didn't mean Enron's financial foolishness, just the market manipulation that they did to fuck over California.

        • Re:Ok (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:08PM (#46271315)

          De-regulation along the lines of the power companies? In other words, break apart "generation" and "distribution"......make TV/broadband one entity and then make the lines themselves a different entity. Have the distribution entity charge customers the same rate scale so that other companies can compete on equal footing.

          The problem with this solution is that the cable system isn't designed that way. The electric grid is, in essence, wires. Generators put electrons onto the wire, customers pull them back off. You can't tell where an electron came from, but the utility company bills you for them at the rate of the company you choose (assuming that company has actually put enough electrons onto the wire to cover their customer's use.)

          Cable TV isn't that way. You can't put two channel 5s on the same system. There is a limit to how much can be put on. A provider that gets to use channels 1-20, for example, prevents anyone else from using 1-20. How do you divvy up the limited space? Once you get 83 content providers, you've pretty much used up the full system. And multiple Internet providers would be even worse -- the space is smaller. (And before someone points out that under the wonderful new digital world anything can appear on your TV as "Channel 5", I'm talking about the frequencies and not the arbitrary digital channel id.)

          • Re:Ok (Score:5, Informative)

            by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:14PM (#46271353) Journal

            In my area, I can actually opt to have Earthlink as my ISP instead of TWC. Earthlink offers a similar service level using the same lines that TWC laid. If I paid Earthlink for my connection, Earthlink would keep some portion and then pay TWC for use of the lines. That's more or less how deregulated power companies operate.

            • by antdude (79039)

              I wonder what will happen to EarthLink+TWC and subscribers when Comcast takes over. :(

              BTW, how do you like EarthLink with TWC compared to TWC by itself?

            • Re:Ok (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 @02:58AM (#46273901)

              In my state they "deregulated" our Natural Gas supply. Now they've got about 2 dozen companies I can shop with -- only they cost about 5 times what we used to pay for Natural Gas. The same guys who install and cut off your gas are the same guys now -- only they have no job security and they can work for any of 2 dozen companies that someone has to bill and compensate them for. Same work, less pay.

              You call them and get either a robot "Your call is important to us, press 3 if you would like another series of options" or you get someone after a long wait who is doing a passing job with English and can't solve any of your problems.

              So one pipe, one gas supply, 24 different P.O. Boxes and bills that have "transfer fees" and every few months a new company runs a special because it's their turn.
              I've got no interest in a pretend free market on one pipe without regulations.

          • by Chas (5144)

            At this point, transport on the cable networks is mostly digital. So you're no longer worried about analog channel competition.
            So you can have multiple VLANs running on the same physical media.
            As such, yes you CAN have multiple channel 5's on the same physical network.

            VLAN-A: First provider: Channels+Data
            VLAN-B: Second provider: Channels+Data
            VLAN-C: Third provider: Channels+Data

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              At this point, transport on the cable networks is mostly digital. So you're no longer worried about analog channel competition.

              As I already said, in a vain attempt at preventing this, I was talking about the frequency space that used to be called "channel 5", etc, NOT THE ARBITRARY CHANNEL DESIGNATION EMBEDDED IN THE DIGITAL STREAM. NO, you cannot have multiple channel 5s on the same network. I don't care what you call the data stream -- channel 5, channel 10, etc -- only the bandwidth that is used to transport it.

              VLAN-A: First provider: Channels+Data VLAN-B: Second provider: Channels+Data

              There are a limited number of channels. There is a limited amount of space for data. How many content providers do y

              • by jedidiah (1196)

                > As I already said, in a vain attempt at preventing this, I was talking about the frequency space that used to be called "channel 5", etc, NOT THE ARBITRARY CHANNEL DESIGNATION EMBEDDED IN THE DIGITAL STREAM.

                NOBODY cares about that. Packets can be treated just like electrons from a power company. It doesn't really matter who the source or the destination is or if is even a broadcast.

                Even the notion of "channel 5" being dedicated to anything is an obsolete idea as anything that isn't a packet switched n

              • by Chas (5144)

                And, again, this is only a concern on an ANALOG CABLE SETUP.

                On a digital setup. You simply don't deal directly with channelization.

                Maybe, at some level there's still channelization, but it's abstracted away from the content and entirely manageable in software.

                • by Obfuscant (592200)

                  And, again, this is only a concern on an ANALOG CABLE SETUP. On a digital setup. You simply don't deal directly with channelization.

                  I didn't say the customer dealt with channelization. The hardware does. How do you think the data streams are encoded on a cable network? Magic? Floobydust? It's not some big 100baseT network with data packets flying all over the place. There are some limited number of digital streams encoded onto an RF carrier, and each RF signal is carried on the cable just like the old analog one-station-per-channel signals were. At 6MHz each, an 800MHz system can get 118 or so "channels", and that's pushing it unless y

                  • by Chas (5144)

                    Again, you're talking about physical/data link layer stuff.

                    That's pretty much all handled by hardware/firmware.

                    It's mostly irrelevant because everything truly "hard" about sharing a network is happening in the network, transport and session layers.

                    So, who uses channel 5?
                    Everyone

                    Who uses channel 32?
                    Everyone.

                    It's basically "a pipe". The network is controlled and segmented in other ways now.
                    Even channelized television service is all just data stream on a given VLAN now.

                    With Comcast right now, Phone, TV and In

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Cable TV isn't that way. You can't put two channel 5s on the same system.

            Yes you can, as evidenced by video-on-demand and cable modems.

            Your "cable box" just needs IP capabilities, so when you change the channel, it subscribes to the multicast stream of that channel. The multicast stream for each channel won't cross over any layer-2 switches/bridges, unless there's a device on the other side that has requested it. In practice, every neighborhood is divided up into separate traffic domains like this, so yo

            • by Obfuscant (592200)
              Another person who didn't read to the end of what I wrote to see how I resolved the ambiguity in the term "channel". No, you cannot have two signals on the same frequency on the same cable. You can't just wave your hands and talk about "IP capabilities".

              The multicast stream for each channel won't cross over any layer-2 switches/bridges,

              That's not how the existing cable TV networks are designed. The digital "multicast" is carried via analog RF and uses quite a bit of bandwidth to do that. That box out on the pole is not a router, it is an amplifier. Everyone watching the "big game" is tun

              • by evilviper (135110)

                You seem to have zero idea what I actually said. I'm well aware of "how the existing cable TV networks are designed".

                • by Obfuscant (592200)
                  If you knew how they were built today, you'd not be talking about the RF-based digital streams and level-X routers. An ATV signal doesn't have "packets", and current cable television systems are based on ATV. That's why you can plug a clearQAM ATV receiver into one and get some kind of signal. Now that Comcast is encrypting "everything" it isn't much, but the TV recognizes the ATV signals even if it can only display a few of the streams. My Pinnacle receiver shows a rather complete list of things it knows a
                  • by evilviper (135110)

                    If it was all "packets" and "routers", it wouldn't know anything about it.

                    Except I never said cable TV was all packetized. All I said was, it cable is fully capable of doing so. You specifically said it "isn't designed that way," when the cable network damn-well is. At least it is for internet and VoD services, and it would be a fairly minor thing to extend those capabilities to the rest of the channels.

                    You also said it "can't", when internet and VoD are living proof that the cable network very well can

              • No, you cannot have two signals on the same frequency on the same cable.

                Yes, you can, as evidenced by cellphones. TDMA & CDMA are just 2 examples of methodologies that allow cooperative use of the same signal space. Also, in regards to the available signal space, cable companies & other hard-wired companies aren't quite as constrained as broadcast companies. With over-the-air broadcasts, you have to purchase & license a frequency range. Everything you do has to occur with in that band. As does all of your clients. Yes, you might be able to purchase different bands,

                • by Obfuscant (592200)

                  Wired connections, you can pass a lot more through,

                  Wired connections already pass a lot more through. Two hundred or more signals. As much as you'd like to pretend that you can keep packing more and more into the same wire, you just can't. If you could pack twice as much into the same channel (6MHz frequency chunk) they'd already be doing it. They already pack up to 20 signals into one channel, albeit at a miserable bitrate. The problem is you can't have one provider packing 20 signals into the same space that some other provider is packing their 20 signal

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            If what you claim were true, Netflix would not work. The fact that I use Netflix every day proves that the space isn't the issue. Phone lines were even more limited in frequencies and they did just fine in the dial up days when distribution and "generation" were separate.

            That being said, separating "distribution" and "generation" is not the end all be all solution. "Cable" as we know it is on it's last legs. TV is moving from frequencies/channels to IP. Worrying about "Cable" is like worrying about
        • by icebike (68054)

          Exactly.

          Force them to divest themselves of TV content providers, Networks, Studios, etc.

          It may still not be enough. They have phone packages too. Does that mean they get to *block* VOIP, SIP, and other internet phone services?
          (And when I say block I also mean use speeds or pricing to force it off the internet side of Comcast).

             

          • by jedidiah (1196)

            The funny thing is that we have already heard the same arguments from them. In fact, the pro-monopoly mouthpieces are using the fact that we tolerated this crap last time to justify it again. They're like 4 year olds point and say "but but you allowed it this other time".

            This is what we get for tolerating this bullshit.

            This "but we will play nice" and "but you can add conditions" is the same argument they made for the last merger that should never have gone through.

            If you need to create "special conditions"

          • The biggest thing is, I'm having a hard time figuring out why I should care if the content providers have to deal with a monopoly. They themselves already have a monopoly on the content they produce, and they're the biggest pushers of cable rate increases by raising the crap out of the retransmission fees all the time.

            Hell, ESPN alone sucks up about $15 a month from your cable bill, regardless of whether you watch it or not (I don't, or rather didn't before I got rid of cable.) How on earth could you have s

        • De-regulation along the lines of the power companies? In other words, break apart "generation" and "distribution"......make TV/broadband one entity and then make the lines themselves a different entity. Have the distribution entity charge customers the same rate scale so that other companies can compete on equal footing.

          Which I always considered one of the stupidest forms of pseudo-competition ever dreamed up.

          You cannot separate out power running over a common conductor. There is no ownership tag on the individual electrons. So the idea that if they are delivered to house "A" they should be billed to a different "generation company" than if they are delivered to the house next door is ludicrous. Particularly since the "last mile" is a single entity just because no one would stand for having 20 different "electric companies

          • It's especially stupid when you consider that you aren't even using the electric company's electrons, but rather the ones already present in your house wiring. You're just paying someone to make them move around a bit.

      • Re:Ok (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morgauxo (974071) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:08PM (#46271321)

        I suspect that only people who live in an area with fiber would say that a LOT of places have fiber.

        • by antdude (79039)

          Yep. My cities have FIOS and DSL (20+K ft.) services, but my neighborhoods can't. It doesn't help that Verizon stopped offering them too. Coax cable companies won in these areas. :(

      • Re:Ok (Score:4, Informative)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:23PM (#46271431)

        Well, in a lot of places they have competition from fiber, and places where they *don't* are places where building out a competitive network is unprofitable. Relinquishing the monopoly on cable would be no big deal.

        In vastly more places there is exactly ONE cable plant in the ground. There is no competition.
        Further, most municipalities will not allow building out competitive networks, simply because the disruption is so great.
        These plants went in when the neighborhood was built, and no late comers will be allowed.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          In vastly more places there is exactly ONE cable plant in the ground. There is no competition.

          Because the market isn't there.

          Further, most municipalities will not allow building out competitive networks, simply because the disruption is so great.

          If the second company meets the requirements for a franchise, the municipality cannot stop them. Take the existing franchise, substitute the second companies name for the first, and company two will have a really good legal case if the city refuses to grant them a franchise under the same conditions.

          This "disruption" is a regular occurrence in many cities, pulling another cable through the underground conduits is trivial, and putting up a wire on a pole is not much worse.

          • by icebike (68054)

            Pulling another cable through the underground conduit is not trivial when that underground conduit belongs to Comcast, or someone else. It only applies to City owned conduit, and even then, disruption of existing services is a big risk. Its not trivial. If you think it is, you've never done it.

            Franchise or not, monopolies are different, and the city is not able to give blanket authority to trench in new cable across everyone's yard and driveway. Also Franchises to do things like cable and telephone are

          • Re:Ok (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jedidiah (1196) on Monday February 17, 2014 @09:29PM (#46272427) Homepage

            > Because the market isn't there.

            Yet cities decide to take matters into the own hands only to be subjected to corruption of their own state government at the hands of the Robber Baron in question.

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        You know what's sick? They support legislation to make it illegal for municipalities to help themselves with broadband in places where they choose not to do business at all.
      • What kills me is that we have this debate about whether merging the last two major cable companies is a good idea when the merger of the number 3 and number 4 wireless mobile carriers (Sprint and T-Mobile) is automatically dismissed before even being considered. As a consumer I was exceited by the prospect of those mobile companies merging. I do hope this double-fuck called the Bush and Obama administrations is the low point in our history as a country and we can move on to better days.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        The 'natural monopoly' argument just doesn't hold water. The cable companies have a monopoly because government gives them a monopoly. If the government stopped doing that, you would see competition by new players almost immediately. The fact that the phone and cable companies are regularly using the courts to prevent competition from entering their markets is pretty solid proof of this.
    • Exactly.

      Though, I wouldn't give them the choice. I'd just take the government sanction out of it.

      Let them fight it out tooth and nail. I highly doubt one company will dominate the whole country with our diverse conditions if that is done. And furthermore, I'm pretty sure built up areas will have multiple providers.

      One thing which we do need to look into is the rental costs that cities are charging to run cable on poles or under the street. There have been some indications that those prices are unreasonable.

      • by cusco (717999)

        So cities should have to give the mega-corps lower prices than the power companies do? Almost everywhere they charge the same as whatever local utilities charge, why should municipalities have to subsidize multinational corporations? Of course the charge is more than it actually costs the city to maintain that pole, so what? If they were out of town the price charged by PG&E or Puget Sound Energy or Detroit Edison is going to be more than it actually costs them to maintain the pole as well. I person

      • by icebike (68054)

        I'm pretty sure built up areas will have multiple providers.

        Guess again. The VAST Majority of the US has exactly 1.5 choices.
        1) Cable/fiber owned by Comcast or competitors. .5) Horribly inadequate and often unavailable DSL lines.

        Even where there are multiple cable plants in a city, the overlap of their ares is virtually non-existent.

        The more built up the area, the less chance of any real choice except in the downtown business core.

        • Its interesting, people are reporting that many small towns have 2 or 3 providers of cable. If anything the economics would make more sense in cities for two or three providers. So there must be some non-logistical factor holding back these companies.

          I assume there are leases or rental fees to lay cable that might be unpleasant. There might be something else going on. I don't know. But it seems like there is something in cities that is preventing this... and it can't be natural because if anything the towns

          • by icebike (68054)

            Its interesting, people are reporting that many small towns have 2 or 3 providers of cable. If anything the economics would make more sense in cities for two or three providers. So there must be some non-logistical factor holding back these companies.

            Much of the claim of two or three different cable providers is out of ignorance.

            Most of the time, these are simply bulk purchase providers that ride on existing cable plants through some special bulk buy.
            There really ends up being only one cable plant.

            Just like there are Virtual Mobile Network Operators [wikipedia.org] that provide cell service cheaper than AT&T or Verizon, when in reality they are simply reselling AT&T or Verizon accounts which the purchase in bulk. They don't have any tower or any plant of their

            • Just talked to a guy that said his town has two redundant cable lines... one for each cable company.

              He could be wrong. But there is no way to tell from this remove.

    • Re:Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

      by admiralh (21771) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:50PM (#46271187) Homepage

      Cable is a natural monopoly. Competition really doesn't work in this type of business.

      What we really need is for cable high-speed internet service to be declared a "Common carrier", so they are required to not discriminate against NetFlix, etc.

      • Re:Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:38PM (#46271565)

        Cable is a natural monopoly. Competition really doesn't work in this type of business.

        What we really need is for cable high-speed internet service to be declared a "Common carrier", so they are required to not discriminate against NetFlix, etc.

        Or pry the last mile out of the fingers of cable companies and put it in the hands of Local government, like streets, water, sewer.
        That way the local rate-payers and tax payers can allow multiple content and internet providers, and maintain their own fiber/cable plant.

        Natural monopolies require special treatment.

      • Cable is not a natural monopoly. What crack are you smoking. There used be several companies all competing in the same market. Consolidation killed that.
        • by admiralh (21771)

          Do you honestly believe that it's more efficient for two (or more) different companies to lay down the communication hardware necessary for cable service, including broadband internet, that for there to be only one?

          It's the same problem as electric or water service. It makes no sense for two companies to lay down water pipes serving the same area, so why does it make sense for cable?

          The physical network aspect of cable, and broadband internet, is a natural monopoly, because of the amount of infrastructure i

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Of course they don't compete. Cable companies have government-sanctioned monopolies. I'd say give them a choice. You can merge if you relinquish your monopoly.

      Ok, done.

      Every franchise I've seen is non-exclusive. I.e., it isn't a government-sanctioned monopoly. It is a defacto one based on market forces, not a dejure one based on government action.

      • by cusco (717999)

        Twenty five or thirty years ago exclusive grants were commonly given to a single company, since that was the only way to ensure that companies would build out the physical plant. A lot of people still think that's the rule, especially the Libertardians for some reason.

    • by stinerman (812158)

      Not everwhere is there a monopoly. For instance where I live in Columbus, I can choose from Time Warner or WOW. If you or I or anyone else wanted to, they could set up a company and run their own wires. Guess what? No one else wants to. Last mile connectivity is a natural monopoly and ought to be regulated as a utility.

      As someone else in the comments said, let's require them to split the infrastructure from the services. Then we'll have real competition.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      Local governments give the cable companies their monopolies. It's the Federal government that allows or disallows the mergers. For the federal government to implement your solution they would have to dictate it to the local governments. In this area they are usually reluctant to do that.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Of course they don't compete. Cable companies have government-sanctioned monopolies.

      I'd say give them a choice. You can merge if you relinquish your monopoly.

      Then we'll see what's most important to them.

      Agreed.

      Your suggestion is being echoed in other sources. Some stories coming out of even the Media Loving mainstream press suggest
      that Comcast will be given a choice of divesting itself of content providers in exchange for allowing them to enlarge their cable plant.

      But, interestingly, Others suggest Comcast must allow an open cable plant model, and allow other content providers onto their cable plant with competitive prices, and equal service levels. (For a fee obviously, but one that is regulated). Must

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Must-Carry (usually local) channels haven't proved a burden to cable companies (much as they like to bitch about them), so there is already precedent for this.

        Must-carry is pretty much dead. Once a "content provider" asks for money for their content they are no longer "must carry". That's why things like this [twcconversations.com] happen. Every one of those CBS network affiliates could have demanded "must carry" but chose to demand money for the right to carry them (bundled with pay services). And then pointed the finger at TWC for not carrying them. Their own fault.

        Facilities that are de-facto government sanctioned monopolies

        If they are government created then they are dejure, not defacto. Defacto monopolies exist because of market, not lega

    • by Wansu (846)

      You can merge if you relinquish your monopoly.

      Relinquish said monopoly to whom? Who competes with them now?

      Here it's either TWC or AT&T. Both suck.

  • Who is he talking to (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neminem (561346) <neminem@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:35PM (#46271093) Homepage

    Certainly not us. We don't really have a choice. Comcast could merge with freaking Verizon, thus giving us the granddaddy of all broadband monopolies and dooming to forever pay too much money for a crappy connection and no recourse when stuff breaks (which would be often), and our choices would be to suck it up, or just suck it. So I'm not sure what he thinks we should be doing about it...?

    • by admiralh (21771)

      Why do we have to take it?

      We need to insist that High-speed Internet is regulated as a "Common carrier", like electricity.

      We have Public Utility Commissions that oversee quality and cost for electric, water/sewer, and gas. Why in the world is broadband not added to that?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I stopped my cable because I couldnt' take being fucked anymore by Comcast.

        When I tell others why, they just say, "Good for you. I can't give up my sports."

        There you go. People love their bread and circuses. They are sheep. They want their NFL and College (slave) ball (its funny that they ARE mostly African American and getting paid shit!). And yet, NFL, ESPN and whatnot are making millions or billions.

        I'm not trying to start trouble here, but the black man is still getting exploited..

        Just say'in.

    • It isn't like there is a choice in cable company subscriptions to begin with. This is just moving from oligopoly to monopoly. It is bad, but it already is bad, and there's nothing people can do about it when the politicians who are supposed to regulate it are bought and paid for by corporations.
    • Comcast *does* compete with Verizon -- directly. Their FiOS and DSL options are direct competition for both TV and high-speed Internet -- in the *same* geographic region -- that Comcast offers. There's no way in Hell the gov't would approve an acquisition or merger of those two.

  • by mveloso (325617) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:38PM (#46271109)

    Who exactly is rising up to challenge cable monopolies? What downstream challengers is he talking about? Netflix? Aereo?

    Did someone forget to pay off Krugman today?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MarkWegman (2553338)
      If you read the article you'd know he was pointing out that with this merger Comcast could force other companies that provide them with content sweetheart deals.
      • by hermitdev (2792385) on Monday February 17, 2014 @10:12PM (#46272713)
        Except the fact that Comcast has methodically been working on both vertical and horizontal monopolies. Did you miss their acquisition of NBC Universal? Funny thing about that acquisition, as a Comcast subscriber, I lost channels I used to have. One offhand was Universal Sports. Between then Versus, now NBC Sports Networks and Universal Sports, I used to be able get TV coverage of nearly all major cycling events. Comcast dropped Universal Sports, and now the only cycling I can get are maybe 1 or 2 spring races, and the grand tours.
        • by evilviper (135110)

          Am I missing the conspiracy, here? Comcast bought NBC Universal, and at some point dropped Universal Sports from whatever package... Okay. How does that (sinister act?) supposedly benefit Comcast?

    • by Rhys (96510)

      Projects like municipal broadband. Comcast and co are terrified and buy state legislators in order to shut it down. Hopefully we'll get a few of them out of the gates quickly enough that are fantastically wild successes that comcast and co get shot down.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:57PM (#46272165) Journal

      Who exactly is rising up to challenge cable monopolies? What downstream challengers is he talking about? Netflix? Aereo?

      Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, Google, etc.

      If I'm some dinky little neighborhood cable company, and I'm negotiating a contract with Viacom for carriage on my network (with my 30,000 subscribers) and I insist that part of the agreement is that they can't license any of their shows/movies for streaming from Netflix, Viacom would tell me to fuck off.

      Now, if it's Comcast instead, Viacom has a hard choice... Do they cut access to all their shows off from the 40 million Netflix subscribers, or from the 30 million Comcast subscribers? How about if they do the same to HBO, and their DVD releases have to be delayed an extra year...?

  • by sanosuke001 (640243) on Monday February 17, 2014 @06:46PM (#46271165)
    Let them merge and then split into two companies; the one that owns the fiber/hardware and the one that sells services. Force the hardware company to sell bandwidth to anyone that wants to offer services.
    • Agreed. If you aren't going to do that, it doesn't matter much if they merge or not.
    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:01PM (#46271263)
      While this kind of arrangement has finally worked itself out in the telecom divestiture, for a long time it was a big big mess. Especially messy for the consumer who was stuck trying to get problems fixed. "It's the local loop." "It's your long distance provider". "If we come out to fix the wire and it turns out to be your CPE, we'll charge you a large fee for a visit."

      And for a very long time it was a real battleground for the long distance carriers (i.e. "content"). Consumers would get called regularly trying to get them to change carriers, and then get "slammed" -- involuntary changes. You'd get a number that started out 10-xxx-... and find out after you called it that you had manually picked a shyster LD company that charged astronomical rates.

      Sure, yeah, let's do it all again with cable TV.

      • Except they know the issues now for the most part; they can do it right if they want.
      • by don.g (6394) <don.dis@org@nz> on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:27PM (#46271939) Homepage

        The trick is to have the lines providers wholesale to the retail ISPs/etc, who then provide CPE. If the service doesn't work, the end user's contract is with their retail service provider, who has to sort it out, no matter where the problem is. That's how it works here in New Zealand on our fancy new fibre network that's slowly replacing the old copper phone network. It's mostly how it worked on the old copper network, too.

        My ISP (Orcon) provide CPE (a router with voice ports) that plugs into the fibre company's ONT. If the internet or phone doesn't work, it's Orcon's problem. I don't have a contractual relationship with the fibre company so if it's the fibre that's down, it's still Orcon's problem as far as I'm concerned.

    • by PPH (736903)

      sell bandwidth to anyone that wants to offer services.

      That's fine for broadband video streaming services. But that's not the way cable works. Content providers and cable companies negotiate to have those cable companies retail the providers' wholesale content to the end customers. And I'm not certain that Disney and others want to be in the Netflix/Hulu business. Dealing directly with consumers is a PITA and exposes people to masses of consumer protection regulation.

      Comcast and other network operators make a bundle reselling this content, compared to just run

  • We've already separated the incumbent into wholesale/retail/network companies.

  • by Slartibartfast (3395) <ken&jots,org> on Monday February 17, 2014 @07:26PM (#46271453) Homepage Journal

    I don't really know how I feel about the acquisition. I think some of the things Krugman talks about -- e.g., no incentive to upgrade networks -- certainly has validity; I also know that we *HATE* network congestion, and just in my unit, alone, spend tens of millions a year to avoid it. Of course, without incentive, that's just 'cause we feel like doing that, not because we have to.

    The one that has me really, truly worried, though, is Net Neutrality. I am *STRONGLY* in favor of the FCC saying "F*** you all: it's time," and pushing it out. I think that neutrality, combined with the rise (and eventual commoditization) of cellular networks, as well as good ol' Ma Bell and DSL, will be able to offer competing solutions. Of course, then there's satellite, as well, but the inherent latency makes that a poorer option by definition.

    Comcast is, however, essentially right: they don't compete with other cable companies because of the infrastructure; one thing that might be interesting -- though I have a sneaking suspicion Republicans would cry foul about over-regulation all day long -- would be if the gov't enforced a move akin to the telecom and power companies: if cable companies could offer the landline connection, but you were able to get service from anyone. That would go a great way toward leveling the playing field.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      would be if the gov't enforced a move akin to the telecom and power companies: if cable companies could offer the landline connection, but you were able to get service from anyone.

      Except that's half-assed in the case of telecoms in the USA...

  • Even a broken clock, as the saying goes... guess it's his 15 seconds of being right for a change.
  • they don't have SDV or MPEG4 so they don't have

    TWC people may even lose channels to be on par with other Comcast systems.

    GAME 3-9 HD

    TEAM 2-9 HD

    ESPN Goal Line HD / ESPN Buzzer Beater HD / ESPN Bases Loaded HD

    pac 12 HD (out of market)

    BTN ALT's in HD

    Some of HBO, SHOW, MAX, STARS HD multiplex channels that most other systems have.

    MLB Strike Zone HD

    Local NON OTA News channels in HD

  • I am actually open to the concept that both wired and wireless internet providers are natural monopolies. Laying cables to EVERY residence is expensive and duplicating the work is wasteful. Wireless spectrum is limited and having it a disposal of a single entity provides a best chance of optimizing use.

    HOWEVER, natural monopolies must be heavily regulated. If Comcast wants to be one, it should be no more in charge of creating or providing video programming than your water utility should be in charge of maki

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

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