Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
Step four involved yet more calls to customer service, various tweets on the 2 Comcast sites and an email nominally sent to the customer care VP of the company. There seems to be fake, or unhelpful customer service and a real version should you make enough of a stink.
Monday, October 19, 2015
So if you don’t care to rely on my unsponsored perspective on the matter of whether incumbents suddenly have stopped investing in the future consider this from a clearly right of center source, the Financial Times:
“AT&T is a big spender, investing more in infrastructure in the first half of this year than any other corporation in the US. Over the past five years it has ploughed nearly $140bn into its network, and it plans to spend a further $21bn this year and more still in 2016.
“‘I fundamentally believe if you are not a number one or two investor in this industry, you get left behind,’ Mr Stephenson recently told analysts.’” See David Crow, Telecoms: Showtime for AT&T, FINANCIAL TIMES (October 15, 2015); available at: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/70c15980-7321-11e5-a129-3fcc4f641d98.html#axzz3p1qj8qH3.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
At first impression, what’s not to like about Verizon’s Go90 gambit? See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/business/media/verizon-to-offer-free-mobile-tv-with-an-eye-on-millennials.html?emc=eta1&_r=0. The smartphone surely has the capability of offering a competitive alternative to other screens in the video marketplace including television sets and PC monitors. If a third party wants to subsidize my consumption of “must see” video, well thank you very much! I am a classic free rider likely to consume the video content without necessarily paying for the advertised products and services.
In class I regularly make references to beer, one of the essential food groups for my students. Most get the economic concept of free ridership when I explain how much I enjoy the Clydesdale advertisements for AB Inbev Budweiser, without having to buy the beer.
Free rider opportunities notwithstanding, there is a closer question whether sponsored data constitutes permissible price discrimination. Bear in mind that carriers like Verizon and Comcast can absorb the cost of content carriage, or receive advertising revenues making it possible for consumers to watch content without seeing their often skimpy data allocation evaporate. Netflix has not banked on competitors having the same zero cost of content delivery.
So would Netflix have a legitimate (and lawful) complaint about how sponsored data violates the FCC’s Open Internet Order? In the Internet Service Provider tilting the competitive marketplace for information, communications and entertainment (“ICE”) by taking the cost of content carriage out of the consumer’s cost calculation?
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Let’s get one principle straight: capex in most industries primarily correlates with competitive necessity and the life cycle of sunk investments. In the U.S., wireless cellular radio companies bear the burden of streamlined Title II common carrier regulation. Such regulation has not dissuaded these carriers from sinking billion in spectrum auctions and in plant investment. The FCC swears that broadband access providers will encounter even less regulatory oversight than wireless carriers.
Similarly, a year over year analysis of capex might have little to do by way of regulation impact on the incentive to invest and much more on whether and when a carrier needs to invest in new, or replacement infrastructure. Ventures with very high plant investments typically also have capacity that comes online or offline in very large increments. For example, a satellite company like Intelsat, Dish, Sirius-XM and DirecTV will show a significantly higher plant investment in years when it has to replace an in-orbit and soon to be deactivated satellite. Variability in capex has nothing to do with whether regulation ebbs and flows in terms of severity, or burden.
I will concede that telecommunications management may tinker with capex as political leverage for less regulation. AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson has said as much, but do you really think he would ration capex if it would render his company and its services comparatively inferior to what other wireless carriers offer?
Telecommunications carriers and their sponsored researchers also like to trot out “regulatory uncertainty” as a capex disincentive. In the same breath, they also like to claim regulation operates as an unconstitutional “taking” of their property and the capex they previously made. Newsflash: regulation in telecommunications constitutes a cost of business that incumbents and prospective market entrants alike have to take into consideration.
Bottom line: regulation and uncertainty about the future of regulation has limited impact on capex decision making. If a carrier can make do with less investment it will do so. Right now most airlines are replacing kerosene guzzlers with more efficient and cheaper models. They might also “right size” inventory with smaller aircraft. Such a reduction in overall passenger capacity and in investment responds to marketplace conditions not whether aviation regulators have become more aggressive. The same concept applies to telecommunications.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
At some future date Comcast may refuse to provide broadband service to modems using the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 2.0. Right now Comcast wants to migrate “bring your own modem” subscribers to the rental camp now charged $10 a month.
Comcast does not want you to know that the new rented modem will not provide any faster service unless you subscriber to a triple digit, high end service tier.
Monday, August 3, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
With growing momentum, wireline incumbent carriers have achieved general consensus that copper-based technologies should reach end of life, the sooner the better. The incumbents emphasize how wireless can satisfy consumers’ desire for tetherlessness, free to roam and motor without loss of voice and data connectivity.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
My friend should be the kind of customer Verizon should cherish. She’s a triple play subscriber with a triple digit monthly bill. She accrues no benefit in subscribing to both wireline and wireless Verizon services, because the company has a bizarre policy of completely separating the business dealings of the two ventures, except for offering a single bill. She’s paying Verizon wireless for unlimited long distance even as she has plenty of anytime, anywhere wireless minutes. She’s satisfied with Digital Subscriber Line “broadband” transmission speed.
Despite repeated assertions that Verizon Wireless employees do not receive commission’s my friend’s salesperson routinely inserted a 2 Gigabyte data plan. No examination of my friend’s data use. To add insult to injury, the sales person convinced my friend that she should use a “wireless solution” to her in-home, voice telephone requirements.
Verizon added insult to injury by skimping on telephone-based customer service. Repeated called got disconnected, probably because the representative realized the call would take too long to resolve in light of severe expectations on the number of calls handled per hour.
I got involved and accompanied my friend to the local Verizon Wireless store. The place has an uncanny similarity to a car dealership. The company uses multiple salespeople and a hand off process that sure looks like a way to “tenderize” the customer and beat them into submission so that the last representative can lard on insurance, extra features and accessories, of course accruing no commission, spiff, or kickback.
Two hours later, I achieved a remedy, albeit a still costly one. It was remarkable to see that the Verizon Wireless representative experienced the same recordings and runaround as my friend. A wireless call triggered a wireless Verizon customer service agent even though the local Verizon Wireless employee used a wireline Verizon toll free number. The local employee had to resort to a wireline telephone to get through to Verizon wireline.
How ironic (copper/iron pun intended).
The lessons learned:
1) Verizon is one of those “too big to fail” ventures that screws up customer care, even if arguably it invests more in the process than a company like Comcast;
2) Verizon is using far too aggressive tactics to nudge and push wireline customers onto wireless options, particularly in areas lacking FiOS;
4) Consumer interest in having the latest and greatest smartphone can lead of costly and unneeded service arrangements; and
5) Consumers surely must prepare for the high pressure, time is of the essence decision making that still locks most into a 2 year service agreement.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The FCC applies the transparency requirements contained in its 2010 and 2015 Open Internet Orders that passed muster with appellate court review.
Ironically, AT&T could have avoided the fine if it strategically blended service contracts with FCC filed tariffs. Historically, tariff filing requirements have been vilified as harmful to competition, innovation and carrier flexibility. The FCC has mandated detariffing of many services including wireline and wireless long distance services on the assumption that carriers will self-regulate in a competitive market.
The tariff would have trumped anything offered orally, or by written agreement. Even today, under certain circumstances, incumbent carriers still like what tariffs offer. For example, Verizon still has a web page that seems to like tariffing. The company states that: “Tariffs have historically served as the basis for creating binding rights and obligations between carriers and their customers for telecom services.” See http://www.verizonenterprise.com/us/publications/service_guide/detariffing_f_a_q/.
But of course who wants a fair balance of rights and obligations between carriers and consumers? With binding arbitration clauses and major limits of the certification of class action law suits, carriers increasingly can behave poorly, dare I say cheat customers, without penalty. Occasionally the FCC and FTC step in, and the offending carrier pays a minor fine.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
If You Like the Airlines’ Consolidation, You Might Love an Even More Concentrated Broadband and Cable Marketplace
Consider the consequences on innovation and competition If AT&T has succeeded in acquiring TMobile. Does anyone (including Wall Street Journal editorial writers) believe consumers would enjoy the benefits of data rollovers, cheaper rates, lower roaming fees and the option to bring their own devices?
In a concentrated industry, operators have great incentives to match each other’s rates and service. That’s what consumers get from the spate of recent airline mergers. Even the industry maverick Southwest has “gotten with the program” on fares and many of the highly lucrative extra fees. Call it collusion, consensus, or conscious parallelism: the airlines offer roughly the same fares and fees? Can you recall a highly advertised sale in the last year?
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Monday, May 11, 2015