Comcast's Pandemic Price Hike Bonanza Continues

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

You'd hardly know there was an historic economic and health crisis going on based on Comcast's behavior.

Clearly nervous about a new incoming regulatory regime that even semi-coherently focuses on consumer issues, Comcast last month expanded its bullshit usage caps into the Northeast, one of the only regions that had yet to be saddled with the charges. The monthly cap and resulting overage fees, which you can avoid by paying for an "unlimited" plan, serves no technical or financial purpose. The restrictions don't actually help manage network congestion, flat-rate broadband is already hugely profitable due to muted competition, and ISPs like Comcast can deal with a small minority of extra-heavy bandwidth users by pushing them to a business-class tier of service. It's literally just a cash grab on the backs of uncompetitive US broadband markets.

But Comcast's not stopping there. The company also recently imposed a price increase on its cable TV bundles, broadband service, and many of the bullshit fees it imposes on your bill to help it falsely advertise a lower rate. This includes the company's "Broadcast TV fee," which is literally just a portion of your existing cable TV bill, broken out and hidden below the line, leaving you uncertain of what you'll actually be paying for service until you've received a few bills. It's false advertising and predatory, but good luck finding a US regulator or lawmaker who much cares.

But Comcast's not even stopping there; the company also says it's going to start charging significantly more for house calls in the new year:

"The giant cable company, which serves 1.9 million users in Greater Boston, New Hampshire and Maine, will charge $100 to install cable service, effective Jan. 1. That’s up from a current price of $79. In addition, Comcast will charge $70 for in-house service calls, up from $40."

Again, this is just monopolistic price gouging of captive markets. Only made possible due to two things: a lack of competition in many markets, and utterly corrupt and feckless lawmakers and regulators. Folks in positions of "leadership" who have no problem with the fact the cable industry makes around $28 billion every single year simply on bullshit fees alone. That was always a problem, but it's a particularly pointed issue now that COVID has revealed how essential affordable broadband is for little things like, oh, survival.

And yet, US regulators and lawmakers who've spent the better part of the last two years hyperventilating about "big tech," have not only ignored the problem, they've happily gutted most oversight of natural monopolies like Comcast. The same Comcast whose broadband monopoly is only growing as traditional phone companies effectively give up on traditional, fixed residential broadband service.

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Filed Under: broadband, competition, fees, pricing
Companies: comcast


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  • icon
    Federico (profile), 30 Dec 2020 @ 7:54am

    State subsidies

    I wonder whether state subsidies to "consumers" (?) are making it easier to increase prices, as part of the pain won't be felt (initially). For instance, in today's news from Colorado:

    $20 million to broadband internet access for educators and students

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/30/states-resources-coronavirus-relief-451926

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 8:42am

      Re: State subsidies

      In the same way that subsidies for heating oil made oil prices rise. Cause and effect are mutable - politicians want to help low income people, so subsidy the cost of heating oil that had already risen. Alternately, oil companies see the opportunity and raise rates. It goes both ways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: State subsidies

        Government assistance for the underpaid would not be necessary if employers were to pay a living wage as compensation for a full time job. If you are unable to find decent employees at the rate you are paying, then perhaps you should go out of business. This is known as free market capitalism. No whining to the government about how you are unable to run your business screwing over your employees. In fact, it would be more efficient for the employer to pay the employee as opposed to the government having to step in and make up for the business shortfall.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 9:04am

    There are pockets that offer multiple broadband providers. Many major universities have them for their off-campus population.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Dec 2020 @ 9:19am

    Be consistent or just admit you've got an axe to grind

    And yet, US regulators and lawmakers who've spent the better part of the last two years hyperventilating about "big tech," have not only ignored the problem, they've happily gutted most oversight of natural monopolies like Comcast.

    And this is the main reason I don't buy the 'Big Tech has a monopoly and must be reigned in' arguments from politicians, as while you've got politicians calling for heavy regulations of online platforms because of the 'damage' they're doing to the public by having rules of acceptable behavior there's a telling silence when it comes to the likes of Comcast and the monopolies they enjoy, an industry with vastly more impact because it doesn't matter how bad social media may be if you can't access it.

    When the politicians railing against 'Big Tech' start putting equall effort and time into doing the same to Comcast and buddies then I might buy the idea that their motivations are all about protecting the public against predatory companies, until then I see no reason to consider it anything but opportunistic axe grinding against companies that they've decided are good punching bags.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 10:34am

    Is Comcast really a natural monopoly?

    It seems to me that most of the barriers to entry preventing competition with Comcast are wholly artificial: government subsidies and regulations, litigation to prevent municipal ISPs, etc. To me, "natural monopoly" seems to imply their monopolistic position comes from high startup costs and being first to market, but that seems like a pretty small piece of the ISP monopoly puzzle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 11:24am

      Re: Is Comcast really a natural monopoly?

      Any business with a wide spread and expensive infrastructure to serve its customers is a natural monopoly. If an incomer intends to serve the same customers, they have to build as extensive a network to attract customers. It is the connection from your dwelling to the exchanges that are the natural monopoly, as for full coverage, every connection that goes to a competitor means that you have an idle connection in your network.

      The cable and phone systems, when they were installed, were two natural monopolies, one for entertainment and the other for communications. Now that digital technology means that one connection can serve both entertainment broadband and phone needs, the Phone companies are abandoning large parts of their networks as cable has captured most of the customers in the served area.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 2:57pm

        Re: Re: Is Comcast really a natural monopoly?

        Thanks for the explanation!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 3:35pm

        Re: Re: Is Comcast really a natural monopoly?

        The cable and phone systems, when they were installed, were two natural monopolies, one for entertainment and the other for communications.

        The early phone systems did have a fundamental difference: they were not interconnected. Businesses would have to sign up for 2 or 3 services, and publish phone numbers for each. This was rightly recognized as ridiculous, and regulators got involved to fix it.

        Cable services, and especially internet access services, are largely interchangeable. They are natural monopolies due to infrastructure costs; but weaker natural monopolies than phone networks. To the extent any governments are helping prop up these monopolies, they should either stop doing so, or highly regulate them—up to and including forced line-sharing and functional separation (which I think will work much better than heavy regulation of pricing and service practices as was done for telephones).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jan 2021 @ 2:18pm

          Re: Re: Re: Is Comcast really a natural monopoly?

          They are natural monopolies due to infrastructure costs; but weaker natural monopolies than phone networks.

          They have become the same natural (local) ,monopoly, as with a digital network, the distinction between phone, Internet and cable are minimal. All require users are connected to a local switching centre, and with VOIP and digital cable, can be merged into a common system.

          Fixed and mobile service will continue to co-exist, as fixed has a bandwidth per user advantage, and mobile a convenience when out and about. (A fibre connections has more potential bandwidth that a cell tower, and serves fewer people in most circumstances. Also fibre scales up without much in the way of space requirements, a couple of six inch ducts will give massive redundant capacity to a data centre).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MikeOh Shark, 30 Dec 2020 @ 1:20pm

    I hate Comcast as much as the next guy...

    But, we actually have a choice where I am. I could go to Verizon.

    The problem is that Verizon demands you sign up for auto debit from your checking account (no way), you have to use their gateway (no, I have a cable modem and router and want total control), and they refuse to quote a firm monthly price before service starts. That shouldn't even be legal!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2020 @ 9:40pm

      Re: I hate Comcast as much as the next guy...

      they refuse to quote a firm monthly price before service starts. That shouldn't even be legal!

      It briefly wasn't, but then they whined to the FCC that it was too damn hard to figure out the prices in advance of people signing up. I'm not even kidding.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 2:17am

    What happened to the laws forbidding price gouging?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 5:07am

    Dumb da dumb dumb

    Keep "cutting the cable" while still paying THE SAME ISP -- what did you think would happen? These local ISP monopolies are squirming now. We have to keep up the pressure!

    Instead:
    -demand (via city council) local ISP competition
    -go with the local telco for internet access
    -start a muni-broadband
    -use your phone as a hotspot and drop 'Concash' all together

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jan 2021 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Dumb da dumb dumb

      Or do what most of the rest of the world has done, regulate the Infrastructure as a common resource, and allow competing ISPs to use the same infrastructure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 8:31am

    and it wont stop until either/or/both things change. call out those in Congress who are doing what they are told by the likes of Comcast (for a fee, of course) to help this sort of thing happen/continue and those same members are forced to stand up for their voters, get competition introduced and stop throwing tax payers money at these companies, getting nothing back except what's expected from pissing into the wind!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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