Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Communications Networking

How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers (backchannel.com) 89

"New York subscribers have had to overpay month after month for services that Spectrum deliberately didn't provide," reports Backchannel -- noting these practices are significant because together Comcast and Charter (formerly Time Warner Cable) account for half of America's 92 million high-speed internet connections. An anonymous reader quotes Backchannel: Based on the company's own documents and statements, it appears that just about everything it has been saying since 2012 to New York State residents about their internet access and data services is untrue...because of business decisions the company deliberately made in order to keep its capital expenditures as low as possible... Its marketing department kept sending out advertising claims to the public that didn't match the reality of what consumers were experiencing or square with what company engineers were telling Spectrum executives. That gives the AG's office its legal hook: Spectrum's actions in knowingly saying one thing but doing another amount to fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive behavior under New York law...

The branding people went nuts, using adjectives like Turbo, Extreme, and Ultimate for the company's highest-speed 200 or 300 Mbps download offerings. But no one, or very few people, could actually experience those speeds...because, according to the complaint, the company deliberately required that internet data connections be shared among a gazillion people in each neighborhood... [T]he lawsuit won't by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general's assault -- charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct -- will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves. If that happened, retail competition would bloom. We'd get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we're stuck with today.

The article says Spectrum charged 800,000 New Yorkers $10 a month for outdated cable boxes that "weren't even capable of transmitting and receiving wifi at the speeds the company advertised customers would be getting," then promised the FCC in 2013 that they'd replace them, and then didn't. "With no competition, it had no reason to upgrade its services. Indeed, the company's incentives went exactly in the other direction."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers

Comments Filter:
  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @01:16AM (#53932365)

    When defining capitalism Smith said that the biggest failure of mercantilism was that monopolies ran rampant. They hired their own armies, fixed prices and gouged, and made their own laws often going against their own governments. Not quite like too big to fail, but too big to control so similar. For this reason, Smith said that the primary job of Government under a capitalist system is to stop monopolization to keep trade free.

    Today however, we don't practice capitalism. We have Government enforced monopolies. Politicians benefit from kickbacks and stock options, monopolies gouge customers, and the average person is screwed. IP laws have ensured that competition can be squashed in court long before they ever become a threat.

    To reiterate for the anti-capitalist comments that normally follow a thread like this, we are not living under a capitalist economy. It is crony capitalism at best, but closer to fascism.

    • Yeah, cable company screwing you over? Just switch providers!.Oops, New York City has a Cable Franchise Agreement giving one company a cable service monopoly. Until that sort of thing stops, there won't be much competition there. A little bit of working around that using phone infrastructure and/or wireless, but even those have similar licensing issues and/or technical issues.

      But don't worry, the politicians in NYC are there looking out for the people...

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        You think a franchise agreement is bad? Come to Canada where 3 companies effectively own 97% of the cell, cable TV/internet and DSL/fiber internet. It gets worse because these companies also basically work in a no-compete environment. You can't get Shaw in Ontario, your only choice is Rogers or satellite TV. So with that, Rogers, Bell and Telus effectively own the entire cell market. Bell and Shaw effectively own the satellite TV market(US dishes are illegal in Canada). Rogers owns 95% of the cable

        • by Anonymous Coward

          As an ISP owner in the late 90's early 2000's there was never a 'lease the last mile option' for small ISPs via the telco.

          The amount of capital to get into a carrier grade co-location and even in the same room as the 5ESS or local switch was out of the reach of small ISPs. Plus the technical requirements are so obtuse that you had to hire a consultant (aka former ILEC tech that figured out how to make lots of free money) only to find out that its really an 'old boys club'. So all you really had was to res

        • I live in Sask.

          We have a choice of Shaw or Sasktel for our internet needs in my town. Sasktel is a province owned service provider. Sasktel also offers Telephone, Security Alarm, Mobile (Cell) services in addition to Internet service.

          It seems our wonderful, all knowing Premier (/s) is looking to sell off Sasktel and Bell has been snooping around to buy it up.

          Having a Provincially owned provider has kept costs down, and forces other providers (Shaw, Bell, Telus, etc) to compete in price.

          Currently I have 150M

      • But don't worry, the politicians in NYC are there looking out for the people...

        ...in the same way that you watch out for a pothole.

      • by Average ( 648 )

        "That sort of thing" stopped, technically, in 1996 by federal law. No, really.

        Here's the NYC cable franchise agreements: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doit... [nyc.gov]

        Inconveniently, they're non-searchable PDFs. But, go read em. Every one of them is a non-exclusive franchise agreement, because exclusive ones have been illegal since the Telecoms act of 1996. True story.

        Now, reality on the ground is that 'overbuilding' has basically lead to bankruptcy every time it's every been tried due to the huge first-mover advant

        • Non-exclusive doesn't mean anyone can get a franchise agreement. The problem is that even with massive complaints, the exclusivity agreements remain in effect. It's simply impossible for any other provider to get an agreement with the same terms TWC gets. And though technically illegal, NY courts only allow for local arbitration of said contracts which are adjudicated by local politicians. By the time this is even permitted to go to a non-local judge you spent a good 10 years in court.

    • ... the biggest failure of mercantilism was that monopolies ran rampant. They hired their own armies, fixed prices and gouged, and made their own laws often going against their own governments. ...
      we are not living under a capitalist economy. It is crony capitalism at best, but closer to fascism.

      I would argue that this is the natural outcome of capitalism in a system where people must work to survive.

      • ... the biggest failure of mercantilism was that monopolies ran rampant. They hired their own armies, fixed prices and gouged, and made their own laws often going against their own governments. ... we are not living under a capitalist economy. It is crony capitalism at best, but closer to fascism.

        I would argue that this is the natural outcome of capitalism in a system where people must work to survive.

        You can argue that all you want, but your position is based on willful ignorance. I gave the answer " Smith said that the primary job of Government under a capitalist system is to stop monopolization to keep trade free." and you chose to ignore it. You can read "Wealth of Nations" if you have doubts, but seems like you are pretty happy yelling from the dark.

        • That's fine but that's not capitalism, it's what Adam Smith thinks capitalism should be.

          • So by your own definition, the DPRK has to be a Republic and can't be a dictatorship. There is no way to match the definition with the reality of the case. Your point is moronic.

            • Quite the opposite, things are what they are, despite what people think they should be or what they label them. I guess you haven't quite figured that out yet.

    • Yep. And over the next 4 years (if not 8 or more, may the powers of the Universe save us!) expect more and more of this, as consumer protections are methodically stripped away, and Corporate America is given more and more free reign to Do As They Please, under the guise of it being 'good for the countrys economy'. Regulation? We don't need no stinkin' regulation!
    • Why are people always blaming the Government?? The corporations Tell the government what and what not to do. They buy laws (and other political things).
    • We hardly hear about Smith these days because he had many parts to his working capitalism which are NOT allowed today ironically in the name of capitalism! Smith also had an idea for negative taxes...

      You can't have government prevent monopoly power without keeping capital small enough to restrain it from corrupting and subverting government!

      Today, individuals can subvert government as well as many more corporations.

      Despite a history in the USA of weak corporations, a subsidized press around 3% of GDP (yes b

  • My big complaint ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by csmithers ( 675151 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @01:40AM (#53932413)
    is that they bill a month in advance for services that they haven't provided yet. Then a month goes by, and they say I'm late in payment. When I mentioned this to them, they said "everybody does this". Anyway, I'm not in the habit of making loans to multi-billion dollar corporations.
    • Ironically, they probably pay all their bills after 30, 60, 90, or even 120 days of receiving an invoice. So no, "everybody" doesn't do it, just us proles.

    • But by that rationale, are you saying that we shouldn't pay for items (concrete, not services) until after the warranty expires?

      ...though now that I think about it, anything with a lifetime warranty would be a pretty good buy!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... networks controlled by cities and localities themselves

    They've got the correct idea: Eliminate the monopoly but empowering US government to fix 'capitalism'(*) enrages the 'small government' and pro-privatization crowd, the neo-liberal fanatics and the dishonest executives who can still buy 'free' speech. Enacting such honest ideals will start another political shit-storm which will demonstrate again, that corporations have more rights than their customers.

    (*) Really, they're building infrastructure, which is the purpose of local/state government.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The only way to get sufficient competition is to make "the last mile" into a public utility, but allow many content providers in. They don't have run a jillion lines, only hook up to regional routing nodes. By not having to get into the mass wiring business, more content providers can enter the market.

      • You don't even have to make it public, you can make it privately owned by the person or people at the end of that mile. A few places have followed this kind of model and had the connection to the nearest back-haul link owned as part of the title on the individual houses and that include a share in the ownership of the company that owns the exchange and contracts maintenance and service provision to other ISPs. It puts the individual homeowners in a much stronger bargaining position because now an ISP that
      • So every home has to have a separate cable to this regional routing node? Who is going to pay for that? As it is I hook up to the nearest utility pole with my neighbors. Is that going to be the routing node? If so then every content provider will have to run their own cable to every utility pole. That doesn't save them much money.
        • by suutar ( 1860506 )

          Every home with a phone line has a separate phone cable to a regional routing node already; that's where the line for you and the lines for your neighbors get connected to the upstream data trunk. Every neighborhood has a separate cable line to a regional routing node already; that's where (ignoring the stuff everyone gets like basic cable channels) the data for your neighborhood is split out from the data for the next neighborhood over. Where the "regional routing node" for this hypothetical metropolitan d

  • the internet is free. We're really just paying for the connection (the last mile ?).
  • bastard theives (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Ever since spectrum bought TWC, my bill has gone up 3 times. Still somehow getting the exact same service, and some credits, yet they keep changing the descriptions. Also, now they are charging me $10/mo rental for a modem that was free (not free rental, free I get to keep it) when it was installed, and for 3 years after. Try to call to complain, get on hold for 50 minutes and give up. Not to mention that the price they advertise on their website is the same price I used to pay. They are just charging me ex

    • Also, now they are charging me $10/mo rental for a modem that was free (not free rental, free I get to keep it)

      That's odd. When Spectrum took over in my area, they actually canceled the monthly modem fee that TWC had been assessing.

    • In my area, when charter took over and labeled it spectrum, you needed to replace your cable modem to get the better speeds. This invoked the modem rental fee. Of course there are recommended cable modems you can purchase but you need to ensure it complies with docsis 3.0 and likely want to ensure it has a built in gigabit router for wireless and other connectivity. Something like the NetGear CM600 would do.

      Call your local office or just stop into it. I guess I'm lucky and live in an area that cable hasn't

    • When I changed from a rented modem to my own modem with Comcast, they continued charging me for the rental.

      Comcast knew that I did not have their rented modem: I could see the list of devices associated with my account and it did not include the rented modem.

      I think that Comcast has deliberately set up their system so that there are billing errors like this, which typically increase revenue for Comcast. My reasoning: the same thing happened when I returned a set top box: Comcast kept charging me for it.

      • by imidan ( 559239 )

        I don't know if it's intentionally designed into the system, or if it's just a happy accident for them. The pattern seems to be to continue charging people for things like modems and set-top boxes and hope that they don't notice for six months, and then offer to refund three months of charges as a "goodwill gesture" or some other nonsense that makes it sound like they're doing you a favor.

        I haven't had this myself, but my brother cancelled his cable TV service and gathered up the equipment and turned it in

  • The only fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @03:13AM (#53932621)

    The only way to mitigate this behavior in the future is to line up the executives and apply a sledgehammer to each head until it is unrecognizable. If an individual stole millions of dollars, he'd be in jail for life. When a company does it, nothing happens. There is no justice and there is nothing to deter other companies from engaging in the exact same behavior.

  • Over 4 weeks ago my ADSL line started to have basically 70%+ packet loss. I called in the ISP (independent wholesaler from Telus) and did the normal trouble shooting. A few days later Telus tech came in (Telus owns the lines) and did a bunch of work. My phone was disconnected for a while and he tested the modem synch with is fancy pants device. Said ok all's good. I was a bit busy with customers so after some time I tested out the line. Nope same a before. Called the ISP, had them put in an updated on the

    • Um, can't you use dial up? Well, I'm remembering that in my country early ADSL was a combined POTS + ADSL service, with a filter plug that had both a an old style phone plug and a RJ11 for the DSL modem. Then as alternate or smaller operators got more control of the last mile pipe or cabinets, ADSL-only service got more common and phone service (style compatible with antiques) got relegated to VoIP on the router/modem. POTS is still available (here), you need to sign up for it then POTS + ADSL might be an o

      • *Back in 2000 or 2001 we had propaganda about how ADSL was so great : low frequencies for the phone and high frequencies for the DSL. So regular phone service with high per minute charges still was built-in.
        Up until the 2010s, aforementioned ISP advertised they had dial-up backup at no charge (using their dial up ISP side of the business) although of course the router would then be useless and you would have to use your own dial up modem.

      • I tried to hook up the debit machine through the merchant providers (TD Canada Trust) system but it wouldn't work, and they were 100% useless trouble shooting as she barley spoke English.

    • Had a similar situation at a customer's location in the US a while back (about 9 years ago). In my case, I called the state public utilities commission who actually came out and ran a few tests of their own, then insisted on the telco returning and validating their checks with his. Turns out they installed a bridge tap on the line which caused issues with the ADSL. The PUCO person knew what was up right off the bat but had to give the telco a chance to discover it or something. The telco was given 3 days to

    • Sadly, the only thing I can think of is to move.
      • I can't, I do $1,000,000+ in sales per year from my small shop and because it of its location. If the new connections doesn't work out on Wed for some freaky reason my only other option is Rogers (Ugggh thoght I was rid of them for good) Rocket Hub but that means spending $400 on the hub and paying up to $100-150 per month for wireless internet. One bonus is for $15 extra I can get voice and used my phone system and get rid of the Telus $87 per month "business" phone line.

        • Sorry to hear that. I have seen commercials that allow you to run a credit card by some kind of smartphone but I don't know how safe it is.
  • The story comes on the same day as the French police arrest some people for selling 'drugs' to cure fatal diseases. In both cases the perpetrators are getting money for something that doesn't work - though arguably given the placebo effect, the drug sellers are less likely to be wrong about their claims.

    The answer is clear; customers who paid for a service that it was technically impossible for them to receive should get a full refund and the company should be charged with criminal fraud. Note this is the k

  • But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general's assault -- charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct -- will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves.

    With over 73 million dollars spent by cable lobbyists, not counting telephone monopolies, in 2016 alone, I think we'll be waiting a long time for that bus. Nothing like choking things in the crib before they get out and become...bothersome

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Sunday February 26, 2017 @06:34AM (#53932965) Homepage

    This sort of lawsuit won't do much, even if the state wins. What would do something about the problem is for the state or the municipalities to take the position that the cable companies have breached the contracts that give them monopoly access to public right-of-way for their wiring, then open the access up to other companies under terms that'd prevent any company from blocking or interfering with use by others. That'd still leave some roadblocks, but it'd remove one of the most important ways the telecoms maintain their monopoly position.

    • How about a 50% refund of all bills for the entire time period, with interest? I think that would be noticed.
      • Before it hurt them, though, they'd file suit objecting to the penalty. It'd be a decade or more before it all got sorted out, and in the meantime it'd be business as usual for them.

  • Wow the story wasn't as bad as I thought. After reading about experiences of others and experiencing my own, i figured it would involve a dirty trunk, some rats, an abandoned warehouse, heavy duty cable ties, a wet sponge, jumper cables attached to a stack of old ips batteries, and a single tooth grin from a 300 lb guy named Hector.
  • Charter only very recently bought out Time Warner. The incidents in the article happened before that and in New York, where Time Warner was bigger than Charter (I think), so which company actually pulled this crap? Was it actually Charter or is Charter catching heat for Time Warner's bad behavior?
  • I said it before and I'll say it again: Internet service has become a Right.
    Consider that it is the primary source for communication these days, it is remiss for our government to not ensure fair and easy access to internet access.
    It is already proven, time and time again, that corporations can NOT be trusted to provide in the public interest.

Memory fault -- core...uh...um...core... Oh dammit, I forget!

Working...