Talking with the Evil Empire
On Dec 14, I commented on a City Council Order regarding a poll being conducted by Comcast. Here’s what I said:
I don’t know what the Evil Empire of Comcast is up to with this poll, but I’ll be happy to offer some feedback right here. It was not very nice to take away virtually all of the TV stations for Basic Analog Cable customers other than those that can be picked up off the air. Except for New England Cable News, CCTV, and the municipal stations, everything else recently vanished. Perhaps some stations would return if I got their digital service, but I expect that will require at least another $50 per month for the privilege of getting back some of these commercial-laden stations and it’s hard to justify this. I believe I’d have to pay close to $100 per month to see any Red Sox games. Meanwhile, Comcast is in the process of buying the National Broadcast Company (NBC) from General Electric for perhaps $35 billion. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him to break up the trusts?
My inclination is to say good-bye to Comcast. I hope others in Cambridge feel the same way. Of course, I’m sure the Evil Empire will only try to find other ways to restrict access to television programs unless their trolls are paid handsomely in order to buy up even more media companies. Welcome to The World of More.
In response, Comcast’s Marc Goodman had this to say several days later:
I hope you would consider adding my comment to your recent blog post.
Hi, this is Marc from Comcast’s Boston office. Comcast and the City of Cambridge are negotiating a cable license renewal. Part of any cable license renewal is a process called ascertainment where the cable operator works with a third party to assess the interest of local residents in paying for access television and other cable-related needs that are outlined in an actual license. Comcast strongly supports access and CCTV. We look forward to coming to a mutually beneficial agreement for our customers, the city and the company in the months ahead.
And, just to be clear, the only channels that recently moved were from our Standard Cable package as part of our digital network enhancement. This digital upgrade allowed us to double the number of HD channels in Cambridge and introduce even faster Internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps. All current Standard Cable customers are eligible to obtain up to three pieces of complimentary digital equipment as part of this enhancement. And unlike our competitors, Comcast still chooses to provide an analog basic cable option.
As always, feel free to stop by our Cambridge service center at 88 Sherman Street or call us at 1-800-COMCAST or chat with us online at www.comcast.com.
After taking a few days to digest this, here’s my reply (Dec 22):
I don’t know why I’m even wasting my time responding to you. Comcast is a predatory company, plain and simple. How else can one describe the practice of restricting access to all stations other than broadcast stations unless one is forced to pay upwards of $70 per month? Comcast chooses to not even offer an affordable package to someone who wants only to add a few basic additions to the most basic lineup. It is now rarely possible to see an old movie on TV because they are only made available on channels in the higher-priced packages. Doesn’t it seem strange that the price jumps from $6.50 per month to about ten times that amount to go from Basic Cable to the next available option?
The truth is that the only reason the City of Cambridge negotiates with you is because they must – there is no competitor willing and able to build a parallel infrastructure. City officials were very eager to talk to RCN or another company the last time the license renewal came up, but the up-front costs kept all potential competitors out – to the eternal detriment of Cambridge residents.
And “just to be clear”, the channels that disappeared recently from Basic Cable customers were most of the stations we used to get. Comcast’s analog basic cable option provides essentially the same thing that anyone can pick up with an antenna, i.e. what you can otherwise get for free. If you want to do me a favor and possibly salvage the Comcast name to at least one customer who is on the verge of quitting you, here’s a request: Give me a package that includes just the broadcast stations and public access stations plus a few Cable news stations and Turner Classic Movies, AMC, and perhaps Comedy Central and a few others at a total cost of around $25-30 per month (and not just a bogus introductory rate that will soon double). Then give me a quote for an a la carte addition of Red Sox games during the baseball season.
If you have an offer like that, we’ll talk. Until then, you are just another employee of the Evil Empire.
Cambridge Civic Journal