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The New York Times is the latest to write a love letter to Comcast top lobbyist David Cohen
, who skirts federal lobbying rules by simply pretending not to be a lobbyist
. Cohen's currently in the middle of selling lawmakers on Comcast's $45 billion attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and the Times pays more than a little adoration towards Cohen for his lobbying skill set, while also highlighting his close fundraising ties to many of the politicians reviewing the merger.
As he's done in most interviews, Cohen addresses the company's Achilles heel: horrible customer service. As Comcast has also done in other public comments, the company tries to pretend that they simply have so many customers
, it's a small vocal minority of complainers that are to blame for the company's bad reputation, not the company itself:
"I point out we get over 300 million service calls a year,” he says. “A million a day. So if we do a great job on 99 percent of them, then we are going to have three million people” who are angry — “and we do a great job on way more than 99 percent."
This is effectively what Comcast CEO Brian Roberts also tried to argue
several times over the last year:
"What unfortunately happens is we have about
350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million, and that doesn't count any online interactions which are over, I think, a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that's a lot of people — unacceptable.
A few years ago we noted how
a large scam ring operating in Philadelphia was offering users Comcast's entire cable TV lineup for $150...per year. The operation, which law enforcement claims cost Comcast $2.5 million in revenue, used a secret computer installed in a subcontractor's office, in addition to the IDs of subscontractors that were on disability or had been let go. Local Philly news outlets claim that the "ringleader" leader of the operation, who employed roughly two-dozen people in the operation, plead guilty last week
in a Montgomery County courtroom.
Al Franken has been leading a strong charge in opposition of Comcast's $45 billion Time Warner Cable acquisition, being one of the only people to hit the company with hard questions during the recent Congressional hearing on the merger
. Now Franken is looking to get Netflix's help after the company recently vocally complained about the threat new interconnection and peering deals
pose to the health of the greater Internet.
Like AT&T did when they tried to acquire T-Mobile, Comcast is using the fairly standard lobbying trick of using third party groups to parrot merger support -- since it's hard to get someone to like what most agree will be an anti-consumer merger without paying them. That includes the use of everything from minority groups
to an ocean of niche associations, many of which are often willing to sell out their own constituents and support bad corporate policy just as long as money keeps flowing from Comcast.
The cable industry has historically found itself at the very bottom of customer satisfaction rankings across nearly all industries
, in large part because of the constant rate hikes
, but also because they simply don't want to pay for quality customer support. Comcast is no exception, and has spent most of the last decade trying to, as they put it, "combat consumer perceptions" that they're not very good at doing their job.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts seems to have popped up every few months or so over the last decade to make a promise that the company's rock-bottom customer satisfaction rankings are going to change soon -- yet they never do. With Comcast wanting regulatory approval for their Time Warner Cable acquisition, once again the company is promising everyone that customer service is a priority
and will get fixed any day now
Comcast Executive VP David Cohen told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that "it bothers us that we have so much trouble delivering a really high quality service level to customers on a consistent basis. It is not something we're ignoring." "We have spent billions of dollars over the last five years improving our networks to try to make them more reliable."..."We are deeply disappointed as to where we are."
Except reliable networks don't cure your customer satisfaction problems when you vehemently refuse to compete on price or spend serious money to improve your customer service systems, whether that's better training and support for front line support reps, or spending more money on better subcontractors so they don't fall asleep
, kill anyone
, torture kittens
, dig in the wrong yard
or blow up any laptops
With a 180-page filing
(pdf) and a blog post
, Comcast today formally made their sales pitch to regulators regarding approval of Comcast's planned $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Most of what's included in the sales pitch are things Comcast has argued repeatedly already in the court of public opinion; namely that the two companies combined will create amazing synergies that will benefit consumers in a myriad of ways, and that the merged company can't possibly engage in bad behavior because relatively tiny operations like Google Fiber will somehow keep them honest.
Comcast has officially won the Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" award for the second time. According to the website
Comcast beat out a significant number of heavy hitters riding massive waves of negative public sentiment for the honorary "golden poo," including Monsanto, numerous banks, and Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner Cable.
Last fall Comcast began tinkering with
a new bundle that offered HBO, basic cable, and 25 Mbps broadband. While Comcast offers the bundle initially under promotion for $40-$50 a month (depending on your market), though it doesn't include HD content and the price jumps to a less sexy $70=$80 a month after one year.
Comcast's top lobbyist David Cohen (who skirts lobbying disclosure rules by simply pretending he's not a lobbyist
) says he's yet to hear any "rational, knowledgeable voices" objecting to his company's planned $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In an interview
with CSPAN (see this companion Time article
), Cohen again reiterated that the deal would be great for consumers and great for America, as if a man paid to lobby for Comcast would voice any other opinion.
A little more than a year ago, most of the large ISPs joined a new anti-piracy initiative crafted by the entertainment industry dubbed the Copyright Alert System. In CAS, users are given warning letters for copyright infringement as has long been industry practice, but ISPs will also give users a slap on the wrist for the behavior, ranging from brief filtering of websites (until users agree to receipt of "educational" material) to temporary throttling. story continues..
Charter tells the New York Times
that the company is "keeping its options open" to still being able to potentially buy Time Warner Cable, despite Comcast's significantly higher and already approved offer. In the opening salvo of a hostile takeover, Charter nominated 13 directors to replace Time Warner Cable’s existing board, and still hasn't withdrawn those nominations. Given the Comcast deal still hasn't been approved by regulators or shareholders, Charter appears to be holding out some hope they may still have a chance when all is said and done.
Time Warner Cable has fired off an e-mail to the company's users to assure them that being acquired by Comcast will be in everyone's best interests. In the e-mail, embedded in its entirely below, new Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus (who stands to net more than $56 million personally from the deal
, should it be approved by regulators) claims that the new company will "innovate faster" and "deploy even better products and features, including a superior video guide, faster Broadband Internet speeds and even more WiFi access points so you can access the Internet wherever you go."
Dear Valued Customer:
Recently, Time Warner Cable announced plans to merge with Comcast, forming an industry-leading technology and media company dedicated to delivering great customer experiences.
In June of last year Comcast announced
that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot. More specifically, update routers would now offer two signals: one being yours, and the other being a "xfinitywifi" SSID signal providing free Wi-Fi to other Comcast users in your general area.
A number of companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Google, and Microsoft are expected to announce a new coalition named WiFiForward
that will push for expansion of access to unlicensed spectrum for wireless networks. The new coalition was supposed to be announced yesterday, though the announcement appears to have been delayed out of fears it wouldn't have been noticed under the din of the Comcast Time Warner Cable announcement.
Notably absent from the coalition is AT&T and Verizon, who use Wi-Fi for offloading, but would obviously prefer you pay them for accessing cellular networks:
...after spending billions of dollars to upgrade to faster, so-called LTE technology, AT&T and its peers are now looking to bring that traffic back. "We are now at a place where the pricing is right, LTE is performing very, very well, and you want to drive utilization of these networks," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said at an analysts conference in December.
The cable industry originally had cellular ambitions but after acquiring spectrum (now owned by Verizon) realized that competing with AT&T and Verizon on their turf would be very cash intensive. They've instead worked together to offer a broader array of publicly available hotspots in higher traffic areas, which are free if you subscribe to traditional cable services.
Comcast this morning confirmed reports from last night
that the company would be buying (or trying to buy) Time Warner Cable in a deal estimated to be worth around $45 billion. In a statement
released this morning, Comcast promises the deal will create a "world-class company" and "meaningful operational efficiencies" resulting in a "superior experience for our customers." You'll of course get to be the judge of that, provided the deal even gets past regulators wary of vertical integration who may not be eager to see Comcast grow larger. Comcast states they expect the deal to close by the end of 2014.
The other day we exclusively reported
that Comcast was rolling out yet another round of speed improvements for the company's customers, with many of the company's existing tiers seeing their speeds doubled yet again. Specifically, Comcast will be boosting their "Performance" tier from 25 to 50 Mbps, their "Blast" tier from 50 to 105 Mbps, and may
(this is not set in stone) be bumping their "Extreme" service from 105 Mbps to 305 Mbps.
As we noted the upgrades are to be limited in scope initially, restricted to certain bundles. Comcast has since confirmed the upgrades to Multichannel News
, noting they'll initially only be made available only in the company's Central Division:
Comcast is presently limiting the new bundle packages to its Central Division, a region that operates in 15 states and covers markets such as Chicago; Detroit; Atlanta; Detroit; Miami; and Nashville, Tenn. Comcast has not announced when or if it will offer similar speed packages in its West and Northeast divisions.
Our source noted that while limited in scope, additional markets would be seeing these speed upgrades in March.
We've noted before
that Aereo's business plan was likely to face scrutiny by the US Supreme Court. The case, an appeal of a pro-Aereo decision by the 2nd U.S.
So says David Clark, president of The Weather Channel, currently in a carriage dispute with DirecTV. He urges customers to appeal to Congress to intervene in the dispute. story continues..
, the nation's largest deployment of municipal broadband service, has been turning heads for a wave of non-disclosure agreements they've made the mayors of the network's 11 partner cities sign. According to the Standard Examiner
, the NDAs require that Utopia partners remain quiet about a "possible major new partner and project." That partner isn't named, but the story calls said partner an "Internet giant."
After Google acquired the Provo, Utah municipal network
for a song, obvious speculation leads to wondering if Google would be interested in acquiring Utopia as well and integrating the two networks.
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