True story: this evening, I found myself at a Comcast event. I drank the free booze. Had some hors d’oeuvres. Watched some 4K Super Ultra HD.1 Grand old regular night.
Here’s the thing: the people who work at Comcast all seem nice enough. They are human beings after all. And I’d never begrudge anyone from earning a living. But Comcast as an entity is like a horror story of regulation gone bad.
Comcast is by far the largest cable company in the United States. The only other company even remotely close is… Time Warner Cable. After that, it’s Verizon FIOS, which is no longer adding new customers as the parent company has instead decided to partner with… Comcast.
It reads like a joke. It is not.
The strangest thing is that this deal isn’t actually anti-competitive — because there was never any competition to begin with. Time Warner Cable doesn’t operate in areas where Comcast operates. So, if this acquisition goes through, consumers will continue to have no choice in their cable operator. Hurray!
Comcast will undoubtedly say that’s not their problem. They’re simply working within the current regulations. And that’s true. But that doesn’t make it right.
The reality of the situation is that for the forseeable future, cable television will remain vital in this country. Meanwhile, cable internet will continue to become even more vital. And Comcast is now ensured to dominate both of these worlds without fear of competition.
They’ll say that the wireless carriers are now their true compitition. And that’s true. But that’s still quite a ways down the road. And I suspect we’ll see Comcast come to meet those guys in the skies before we see the carriers match cable internet speeds.
In what may or may not be a coincidence, word leaked out earlier today that Apple was in talks with Time Warner Cable about providing content for their new Apple TV. Those talks, like all talks, were undoubtedly at least in part to gain leverage over other potential partners. But now such partners are disappearing.
The only reason the iPhone exists is because Apple was able to convince AT&T (then Cingular) to take a chance, and potentially blindside Verizon. It worked. AT&T started gaining customers and Apple had all the leverage they needed.
The cable space is obviously different since again, no single company has nationwide service. But with the Time Warner Cable deal, Comcast will be close. And no competition will compare. In other words, don’t hold your breath for Apple to reinvent the living room anytime soon.
Instead, get ready for a whole lot more Comcast. Let’s just hope they don’t jack up prices, throttle speeds, block content they don’t own, or do any of the other myriad of things they can do with this continued consolidation of power.
Someone, please help.
Which I still honestly don’t think looks that much better than good old 1080p HD — especially when that resolution isn’t being compressed to no end over Comcast’s pipes. ↩