Friday, November 22, 2013

Are Your Ready for Another Round of Consolidation in the Cable TV Industry?

As many of you who read this blog know, I am no fan of the way that cable, satellite, or Telco companies offering to bring Internet and TV programming into the home.  If you are not familiar with my opinions on this subject, here are some of my previous posts:

Charter Communications wins honor in Hall of Shame for Customer Service
Comcast Joins Charter Communications in Hall of Shame
The Quagmire of Dealing with DirecTV
DirecTV Power Email
AT&T Account Obfuscation
DirecTV's Penchant for Spurious Telephone Calls
Time Warner Joins Comcast and Charter Communications in Competition for the Sleaziest       Service of Cable TV Providers

The basic problem as I see it is that there really isn't really any competition in the industry.  Unlike other industries that might flex their muscles and flirt with the antitrust laws, many in the Cable TV industry do not have to worry about it.  It is not that they have no competition -- it is that they have no competition in many of the markets they individually serve.  So, for example, here in the Reno NV area Charter is the only real provider of Internet and Cable TV services.  Again, not because there are no other Cable TV companies, but rather because there are no other Internet or Cable TV providers in Reno by choice.   Historically, once one provider comes into a market, other cable companies find it unprofitable to string up that much cable to get only part of the audience.  The corollary to this is that the rates are noncompetitive and the service is terrible.

But now, the cable companies are reportedly preparing to do a major consolidation.  If the reports are correct, Charter, Comcast, or Cox, or some combined offers will buy out Time Warner Cable. This is good for the surviving Cable companies because they will have more clout negotiating with the content providers, and they will have more political clout with a larger financial pocketbook for lobbying.  But what to the consumers get out of it.  We get bundles of programming shoved down our throat that we don't want and get charged exorbitant monthly fees with poor service to boot, and the monopolistic "take it or leave it" attitude from the Cable company. More importantly, by controlling the pipeline with which content arrives at our homes, they control which content we will see.

Just as we saw in years past with the independence of the telecommunications companies decimated and now controlled by fewer and fewer companies, we have seen an erosion in the vital fourth estate of government.  The intrusion into the diversity of the Cable arena has gone too far already.  We do not need fewer and larger Cable and Internet companies.  The Justice Department should clearly preclude Charter or Comcast from acquiring Time Warner Cable.