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back to article Comcast to dump 3.9 MEEELLION subscribers to quell Time Warner merger antitrust fears

US telecoms giant Comcast is planning to sell 3.9 million customer subscriptions to rival Charter Communications in an effort to stem fears that its planned merger with Time Warner will create a monopoly. The firm said that it would conduct three transactions with Charter as part of an effort to reduce its overall share of the …

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Facepalm

Not be a monopoly?

Here in the U.S., virtually every cable company is a "monopoly" thanks to exclusive charter deals with local governments. Here in this west coast island city amongst this nation of free enterprise, bare-knuckle competition, I'm allowed to choose from the following broad-band internet cable operators: Comcast. Only Comcast is chartered to operate within this area. No others need apply.

Comcast not wanting to appear as a monopoly? Yeh, right.

Their business plan of providing high-speed digital services to the residents of this island is restricted to the immediate vicinity of the principal population center. Rural sections need not bother asking. There is no mandate to extend universal service, blamed on insufficient population density to return satisfactory profit on investment.

If it weren't for the Rural Electrification Act, rural America would never have gotten power or telephone service; perhaps it's time to think of extending that legislation to universal cable/broadband internet access.

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Re: Not be a monopoly?

Are you sure about monopoly? In Massachusetts, not a *single* cable contract is exclusive AFAIK. We have towns with Verizon FIOS and 2 cable companies. Every other town is free to have a second provider come in and build a second system. Guess what ... it's too expensive.

And *if* they were all exclusive contracts with "local" government, why is that the cable companies' fault FFS? We have the government we deserve, if your local government signed an exclusive deal you should get up out of that chair and get involved.

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Megaphone

Re: Not be a monopoly?

Last year when I lived in NE USA I had one choice for a cable company - Comcast. I now live in an area where I have a choice between AT&T and Time-Warner.

My Comcast (monopoly) bill was $280/mo. My AT&T (choice) bill for the same services is now $185/mo.

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Unhappy

Re: Not be a monopoly?

In my Massachusetts town, we have a choice between Comcast and FIOS. Same price (within a couple of bucks), for similar data rates.

So...not really much of a choice at all.

I'm thinking of telling Verizon to wire me up for FIOS, then playing Comcast and Verizon off againste each other every time the "introductory" rate expires.

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Re: Not be a monopoly?

The problem with that is, in Massachusetts, Comcast strong-armed Verizon to stop rolling out FiOS to the rest of the state. Only a handful of municipalities have FiOS in MA, and Boston isn't even one of those. But that doesn't stop Verizon from advertising FiOS on the sides of their trucks in the area.

Since I don't want to sell my soul to Satan (Comcast), I'm stuck with Verizon's DSL service.

Oh... And Google's fiber internet service? It might get to this area in another 20 years or so, so I'm not holding my breath for that.

Comcast isn't a monopoly, my arse.

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Alert

Re: Not be a monopoly?

The problem with that is, in Massachusetts, Comcast strong-armed Verizon to stop rolling out FiOS to the rest of the state. Only a handful of municipalities have FiOS in MA, and Boston isn't even one of those

Not exactly true. Boston Mayor Menino wanted a large payoff from Verizon in order to let FiOS in Boston and Verizon refused. It's the worst kept secret in Boston.

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How does this work?

Aren't cable provider's service areas typically regionally exclusive (i.e. "this area is serviced by Comcast while this other area is serviced by Charter")? The end user generally doesn't have a choice, except possibly across different technologies (e.g. cable, FiOS, DSL, etc). Maybe the cities they mention are different...? If not, how exactly are they planning on doing this? Selling the local infrastructure with it?

And what if the client likes Comcast more than Charter? (well, I guess the answer is "tough luck")

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Re: How does this work?

Not exclusive unless you local government allowed it to be so.

Nothing is exclusive where I live. It's just that no other company is going to bother to run wires or fiber down the street because it is too expensive for the return. Who can I blame? I'd like to blame something.

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Re: How does this work?

Yes, although not by national law. It's a combination of sweet deals with local politicians or hideously expensive build costs. But in certain areas with sufficiently high population densities you get competition. I happen to live in a high density region. My two primary competitors are Verizon and Comcast. There's also an outfit called RCN and a bit outside my region another local cable outfit. Plus options with Dish and some satellite providers. But for most people it comes down to (Verizon OR Comcast OR Time Warner) OR satellite OR cell.

Truthfully, I'm a bit less concerned about the +30% region market share than I am about the vertical integration of the movie and distribution business. So long as Comcast are strictly in distribution, there's less impetus to rig the distribution game. Add in the movies themselves and now you've got a real conflict of interest.

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They should be required to divest all their broadcast properties

NBC, Comcast Sports Networks, etc.

Having a cable company with national reach control networks is terrible for competition. They've already tried to leverage that in LA with the Dodgers to steal customers from other providers. Imagine what they'd do if they can exert such a strategy on a national basis?

Hopefully some sanity prevails, but the regulatory environment in the US is so lax I don't hold out much hope.

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Anonymous Coward

Those 3.9 million will be the lucky ones.

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The lucky ones??? I'm not so sure. It's been my experience with Charter that hold times are high, the call center is somewhere in India and totally scripted without an ounce of brains. The installers are all contractors for the most part and their idea of a good connection is one that doesn't spark or melt the wiring. I could go on but I won't. I'll just sympathize with those coming to Charter.

As for switching... I could but it would be to Centurylink (formerly QWest) which is DSL only and the low end of DSL at that. In my view, the only thing to hope for is Google to lay some fiber... Yeah.. it's that bad.

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Lucky?

I agree. The last thing I want is to get dumped over the Charter.

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Facepalm

Competition

Competition means having more than one provider available to each customer, not having many providers who agree not to compete for each other's customers…

In other words, this move would only go in the right direction if Comcast immediately tried to poach the millions of customers it sold to Charter Communications.

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Facepalm

It is about the voters not the amount of viewers.

One thing cable can do much better than broadcast is target voters in specific districts. They can also help out one candidate over the other by what they charge to advertise. This is very poorly regulated so they can play kingmaker quite easily.

http://freebeacon.com/issues/comcast-merger-could-dominate-market-for-local-political-advertising/

http://www.comcastspotlight.com/markets/san-francisco/6620/political

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A bad joke - these uber-arrogant crooks MUST BE STOPPED...

...at any cost - or we will practically KILL THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR TELECOM MARKET FOR DECADES.

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nothing but fluff

Why should 30% be a "magic number" ??

Truth is that the vertical (being an ISP, content distributor, content creator) is far worse than being a large horizontal (very big ISP, OR a very big content distributor, for example).

The only way this "merger" should be allowed to proceed is on the basis of join-then-split. Allow the merger and require the immediate separation of upper-level stuff (NBC, TV distribution etc) from lower-level things (being an ISP, providing pipes).

Once the ISP is out of the content business, the net neutrality issues fade away.

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