Comcast's latest comments on TWC merger show near-total divorce from reality

Comcast's latest comments on TWC merger show near-total divorce from reality

The largest broadband provider in America's attempt to merge with the second-largest is a win for consumers, and will create a vibrant marketplace with more competition, not less - according, at least, to the largest broadband provider in America.

The public statement accompanying Comcast's official response to the FCC, after the latest comment period on the proposed merger with TWC, is a classic piece of corporate doublespeak.

The absurdities are many - there are accusations of "extortion" against major rivals (most notably Netflix) mirroring the much-better-founded allegations against Comcast itself. The assertion that, because there is no competition to begin with, it can't actually get worse -- which may actually be true, as far as it goes, though it doesn't help the company's subsequent argument that "the broadband market is competitive and highly dynamic."

And, perhaps most bizarre, the claim that many of the staunchest critics had somehow tacitly admitted, in their arguments, that the merger would be good for consumers. Which is genuinely puzzling, since the anti-merger camp's most central assertion is that the deal would be terrible for consumers.

Comcast, it need hardly be noted, is not most people's idea of a competent or well-managed company. Readers of the Consumerist blog have ranked it as the worst company in America twice in the last five years. The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a well-respected metric published annually by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, routinely cites Comcast (and TWC!) as among the worst performers in its rankings, and specifically called out the proposed merger as "cause for concern" in its most recent index.

The mere fact that the company consistently ranks as the most hated in America isn't the issue, it's the reasons why that are so illuminating: the hyper-aggressive sales tactics, deceitful practices, price hikes and spectacularly poor customer service.

The only reason Comcast survives is that it has been skillful in exploiting a regulatory environment that has been in dire need of an update for decades -- the widespread existence of local monopolies means that 77% of Americans have only one option for wired broadband Internet access, according to scholar Susan Crawford. And the FCC's ongoing refusal to regulate broadband providers as the public utilities they undoubtedly are means that Comcast isn't subject to common carrier regulations governing competition.

Put simply, Comcast is flat-out terrible at providing the services that it sells. It's an unsustainable, destructive King Kong of a company, beset on all sides by biplanes labeled "net neutrality," "customer service" and "TWC merger," among other things. Small wonder that it's so worried about the prospect of even minimal cracks forming in its densely layered regulatory armor: Without the playing field being tipped almost vertically in its favor, Comcast would be toast.

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