Today the Chicago Tribune published a story that gives at least a glimmer of hope to anyone who wouldn’t like to see one company dominate television programming, television distribution AND broadband connections in the United States.
The combined company would control 30 percent of the cable market and about a third of all broadband connections. Comcast has agreed to divest of 3 million cable subscribers as part of the deal to keep its market share at the 30 percent threshold, formerly a statutory limit imposed by the FCC. While no longer mandated, the divestiture is seen as a goodwill gesture by Comcast to help push the merger through, [senior media analyst Craig] Moffett said.
While there is no limit for high-speed Internet market share, it could prove even more problematic for Comcast in the current regulatory and political environment. The FCC voted last month to redefine broadband Internet standards, raising the minimum speeds and boosting the combined company’s share of the high-speed market to about 55 percent, Moffett said.
By his estimations, Moffett said the FCC’s decision to redefine high-speed Internet reduced the odds of the merger being approved from 80 percent to 70 percent. He declined to handicap the potential negative impact of the Bauer incident and other customer service issues but didn’t discount it either.
What is “the Bauer incident”? It was first reported last week that a 63 year-old woman here in Illinois received a bill from Comcast addressed to “Super Bitch” after months of trouble with her cable service.
Of course, customer service nightmare stories about Comcast are a dime a dozen. By now everyone has probably heard the famous call from last year where a Comcast representative steadfastly refuses to cancel customer Ryan Block’s service. More recently, another customer began receiving bills addressed to “Asshole”. Just today the story broke of a woman who accidentally sent her rent check to Comcast. Not only did Comcast cash the check (!) they initially insisted they would only return the money in the form of statement credit.
If you think this proposed merger would improve customer service or lift the United States higher than ELEVENTH PLACE in the world broadband speed ranking, I hope your next bill is address to “Sucker”. The rest of us need to make sure our elected officials understand that this merger is only likely to work for the benefit of Time Warner share holders.