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CenturyLink: Comcast Is Trying To Prevent Competition In Its Territories 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-kingdom-for-a-non-monopoly dept.
mpicpp sends word that CenturyLink has accused Comcast of restricting competition in the development of internet infrastructure. CenturyLink asked the FCC to block the acquisition of Time Warner Cable to prevent Comcast from further abusing its size and power. For example, Comcast is urging local authorities to deny CenturyLink permission to build out new infrastructure if they can't reach all of a city's residents during the initial buildout. Of course, a full buildout into a brand new market is much more expensive than installing connections a bit at a time. Comcast argues that CenturyLink shouldn't be able to cherry-pick the wealthy neighborhoods and avoid the poor ones. CenturyLink points out that no other ISP complains about this, and says allowing the merger would let Comcast extend these tactics to regions currently operated by Time Warner Cable.
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CenturyLink: Comcast Is Trying To Prevent Competition In Its Territories

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  • Why shouldn't companies be able to cherry pick wealthy neighborhoods and offer their services there?

    • by medv4380 (1604309) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:28PM (#47770077)
      Because it creates competition and drives down the profit margin?
    • by Type44Q (1233630)
      "Sorry, Son. You're only allowed to operate your lemonade stand in the 'hood."
    • As long as they can't stop community/municipal build out in the poorer neighborhoods, it would be perfectly ok. But, they want it all, on their terms, and we're giving it to them through the electoral process. Not cool...

      • by apraetor (248989) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:37PM (#47770153)
        To clarify, you mean municipalities building their own, community-owned networks, correct? I think the solution to this is for the towns to take a step back; the people of the community should create a co-op to build and maintain the infrastructure, and the towns should back the bonds.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Well, they have been actively trying to block exactly that [arstechnica.com] for some time as well.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          But municipalities are essentially co-ops, if the citizens bother to vote.

          • by ediron2 (246908)

            Thanks, was coming to say something about like this... somewhere along the last few decades, conservatives have managed to trick us into thinking that 'the government' is Them, not Us.

            Yup, what this project needs is a good co-op. Plus an oversight board. And technical staff to maintain it. A consistent, balanced funding mechanism where everyone has to chip in. Oh, and a process for citizens to provide feedback and retain control. In short... town government.

            • by Darinbob (1142669)

              The conservatives used to have the story that the remote and distant federal government were the bad guys, and to trust the local people. Now they don't like local governments either.

              • They are quite happy to support 'big government' when it advances one of their more specific agendas, though.

    • by apraetor (248989)
      They shouldn't be allowed to "red-line", but serving only part of a town definitely is legal. Only the original, incumbent provider is barred from doing that, under Universal Access provisions. That's their obligation in exchange for having the limited monopoly, and the dirty pool Comcast has been playing is nothing more than proof they don't care about the customer as much as profit (as if there was a doubt).
    • by Port1080 (515567) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:34PM (#47770125) Homepage

      The reasoning is this - if Comcast builds out to the entire city, they're building out to highly profitable areas and to less profitable (or even unprofitable) areas. They do the build into the market with the understanding that they will make money on average, looking at the whole city, even if they lose money in some neighborhoods. Now Centurylink comes in and builds only in the expensive neighborhoods - well, guess what? They can offer cheaper rates in those neighborhoods, because they don't have to offset their losses in the poor neighborhoods. If they snipe away enough Comcast customers, eventually Comcast has to pull out entirely because they're losing money. At that point, who serves the poor neighborhoods? I am not a Comcast fan, but they absolutely have a point here. Competition isn't fair if one provider is being required to serve the whole city, but the other is not.

      The solution, of course, is municipal broadband.

      • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:43PM (#47770197)
        The other solution is to allow partial buildouts, but ensure each phase is balanced between "rich" and "poor" areas. That lowers the cost of entry while ensuring fair competition.
        • by ewieling (90662) <(user) (at) (devnull.net)> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:02PM (#47770319)
          If it took 10 years for Comcast to provide internet service to the *entire* city, then CenturyLink should have 10 years to do the same. Seems fair to me.
        • What CenturyLink states in their complaint isn't with regards to "rich" and "poor" neighborhoods, it's about being able to build in one geographic area concurrently without needing to hire exponentially more staff. Building concurrently across a large geographic area requires a large amount of resources in terms of surveying, project management, construction, validation, installation, testing, engineering, laying pipe, road work, pole work (in many cases with cooperation with various other organizations and
      • by Kohath (38547)

        It's fair because Comcast is the incumbent provider and has had the benefit of many years of running a monopoly.

        But even if it weren't fair, so what? Since when are things fair for people? Why should Comcast's assertions of unfairness get an audience ahead of any other unfair thing that happens to anyone? Because Comcast is so nice to everyone?

      • The solution, of course, is municipal broadband.

        That is one solution. But there are others:
        1. Charge an "access fee" (really a tax) on all internet connections, and use that money to subsidize service to rural and/or low income people. We already do this with phone service, and the universal access mandate is basically a backhand way to do the same thing.
        2. Get rid of the notion that some people should have their internet service subsidized by others. Instead, everyone can pay the real cost, and we can alleviate poverty in other ways, such as higher

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Also, if there are multiple providers that want to offer broadband service in an area, that sounds like a great reason not to have municipal broadband. My town can barely keep the streets paved -- why would I trust them to provide reliable broadband service?

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The solution, of course, is municipal broadband.

        Agree. The problem here is that we want to have socialism, but we don't want to actually fund it via taxes. So we make companies jump through hoops with the same effect, but usually in a less-efficient manner.

        Drug development is the same thing. We have this patent system because we don't want to fund end-to-end drug R&D and make drugs license-free. The problem is that then we end up with poor people not being able to afford medicine. Then we talk about price controls and all kinds of other measures

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ChrisMaple (607946)
          If the government developed and manufactured drugs, what criteria would determine which diseases are targeted for cures? It would be those diseases with the largest and most obnoxious lobbying groups. The incompetent government labs would be toiling away for cures to AIDS, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and maybe bowel cancer for Barney Frank. MS, heart disease, ebola? Not a chance.
          • by webnut77 (1326189)

            Good point. I would also add that our government doesn't have a good track record at being frugal with our tax money.

          • If the government developed and manufactured drugs, what criteria would determine which diseases are targeted for cures? It would be those diseases with the largest and most obnoxious lobbying groups.

            I'm not sure that's any worse than what we have now where the deciding factor seems to be "will rich people buy it". So we'll spend billions researching the next Viagra but almost no one manufactures malaria medication anymore because there's no money it. We focus on symptom relief rather than cures because "repeat business".

            • by Rich0 (548339)

              I think it is probably worth having both models. Don't get rid of the patent system, but go ahead and have public end-to-end R&D with the government holding the patents and offering free licenses to US-based manufacturers (or those in countries that reciprocate and make comparable investments).

              Private companies could still invest in Viagra and sell it for $5/pill, and if the government drops the ball then at least people have an expensive option instead of no option at all. When the government eventua

          • Given that heart disease is one of the biggest causers of natural death, I'd think there would be plenty of pressure to research that.

            Ebola, for all the scaryness, doesn't actually kill many people. That's why there's no drug for it: Not enough dead to be worth the research investment. It's generally too lethal to spread, baring the occasional outbreak.

            • by Rich0 (548339)

              Ebola, for all the scaryness, doesn't actually kill many people. That's why there's no drug for it: Not enough dead to be worth the research investment. It's generally too lethal to spread, baring the occasional outbreak.

              The problem with things like Ebola and such is that this is true today, and maybe there is a 95% chance that it will be true 5 years from now as well. The problem is that if there ever is a major outbreak we're going to be stacking the bodies in the streets. It is almost certainly worth having a treatment available, even if it never turns out to be necessary.

              The same is true about having reserve antibiotics. They should ideally never be used, so you'll never see private dollars spent on them (who develop

      • by xeoron (639412)
        I know a family that recently paid Comcast 15k to run a Comcast line down a private road and to their home, and most the the town already had service if they wanted it. So, Comcast does not connect everyone, unless they are willing to pay if you live in a area deemed not profitable enough to run cable to the homes.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Except that comcast builds out crappy service to the undesirable areas and declares it good enough and then lets it deteriorate over time.
        Basically the citizens want better internet and the local monopoly refuses to provide it, then goes a step further and refuses to allow anyone else to provide it.
        That's why these should be categorized as common carriers, so that they really provide universal access instead of the facade they have now.

      • by webnut77 (1326189)

        If they snipe away enough Comcast customers, eventually Comcast has to pull out entirely because they're losing money

        If Comcast or anyone has been the monopoly provider for a few years, then they have already re-cooped the cost of their build out. After that it doesn't matter if you're in a "rich" or "poor" neighborhood; the operating costs are the same.

      • by NoKaOi (1415755)

        The reasoning is this - if Comcast builds out to the entire city, they're building out to highly profitable areas and to less profitable (or even unprofitable) areas.

        Okay, except that's not what Comcast did when they first entered most markets. They built out the highly profitable areas long before they built out into less profitable areas. I mean, wow, in what other industry to you get a government enforced (not just allowed) monopoly without all the pesky regulation that other monopolies (like electricity and water) get?

    • by Tailhook (98486)

      This goes back a hundred years when we built "universal access" into our phone system monopoly. Comcast is using it to beat it's competitor over the head — two government created monopolies squabbling with each other over their regulatory obligations.

      Now... pan around the responses to this story and count how many times this all gets blamed on "capitalists" and "free market," and how by damned we need the government to Do Something!!!!1

      • This goes back a hundred years when we built "universal access" into our phone system monopoly. Comcast is using it to beat it's competitor over the head

        If Comcast's stance is using universal access from the phone system, then they are tacitly admitting they are subject to federal regulation when it comes to internet service.

        They can't have it both ways. If they're not subject to regulation because they are a data service, they can't now complain when CenturyLink wants to intrude on their territor
    • by trout007 (975317)

      I don't see it as wrong. This is how all technology gets developed. Early adopters pay for the tech and those that wait get the benefits. You can get the latest phone for several hundred dollars or get one 4 years old for a tiny fraction of that. Same with car tech. Every little standard feature on an econobox started as optional equipment on luxury models.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because Comcast says so, that's why.
      Now shut up before you get throttled back to 28.8k

  • by Anonymous Coward

    CenturyLink is simply attempting to roll out their IPTV platform in markets where they already maintain their ILEC status. They are a KSO for DirecTV, meaning they already have the ability to provide their customers with a video product. Offering DirecTV doesn't require a franchise agreement because it does not involve the public right-of-way.

    Seems odd they are crying foul over not being able to roll out IPTV to a select few neighborhoods because it requires a franchise agreement (which most franchise agr

  • CenturyLink (Score:2, Insightful)

    by strstr (539330)

    Should be forced to build out to poor areas. Reason is they will do exactly as Comcast says, they will not upgrade the rest of their piss poor infrastructure leaving it like it is now, where many houses even in nice neighborhoods can only get 1.5Mbps shit. Lucky for us Comcast is around because cable is the only viable Internet solution currently available because companies like CenturyLink fell back on promises of delivering proper broadband and deploying fiber ages ago.

    Did you know in the 1990s these phon

  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:49PM (#47770237)
    The only other options are satellite and DSL... they successfully prevented competition when they threw their "we no share our cables" fit awhile back.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dog bites man.

  • by pseudorand (603231) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:07PM (#47770355)

    I switch from century link to comcast, but when my 6-month trial price expired and I tried to switch back, century link said they couldn't offer me broadband service because their lines in my neighborhood were at capacity (i'm supposedly on a waiting list). Meanwhile comcast more than doubled their introductory price on me.

    Xcel just replaced all the gas pipelines throughout the entire neighborhood last summer and the city just repaved most of the streets, so I was SURE there would be some opportunity for century link to put in new infrastructure relatively cheaply at the same time. But no, they STILL can't offer me service.

    Up until now, I figured century link was just too cheap to build infrastructure in my neighborhood. Now I wonder if it isn't really their fault. I love to hate century link, but I'm even more eager to hate comcast.

    And for the record, I'm white and middle class (as is most of my neighborhood, though I am notoriously cheap and unwilling to pay for stupid bundle I don't need). Not that racism or poorism doesn't contribute to their decisions, but don't blame on malice and -isms what greed or stupidity can explain.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just an FYI, if you are on a waiting list, it is likely not due to the last mile copper (your reference to building out new infrastructure). They would need to add additional ports (DSLAM/VRAD) which is not cost-effective for a single customer.

    • I found that SOP with Comcast is to renegotiate the cost every 6 months or when ever their "deal" expires. It's a pain but it will save you quite a bit of money.
  • If comcast wants to have monopoly power, if they want to act like a monopoly.. We should turn them into a monopoly. A government owned, government run, public service monopoly.

    Or threaten to carve them up like Ma Bell.

    Dollars to doughnuts they'd start playing nice as far as competition goes, post haste. Either way, we as consumers win.

    • They'd need a new name: Ministry of Truth.
    • by Andrio (2580551)

      We could carve them up like mabell, but that would just slow them down for 20 or so years while all the baby Comcasts recombine.

      Just like the T1000 from Terminator 2.

  • Under the same logic, Ferrari should start making affordable cars for people that earn less than 40k a year.
  • I switched to CenturyLink 10mbit DSL because I suffered a dramatically reduced income, after having been on the 50/10 Comcast tier. I even had to spend some time in a pretty poor town. I had my full 10mbit there. Most of my neighbors there we're on centurylink, many using their IPTV-based PRISM service because it was cheaper than comcast and more reliable than satelite. I even worked with CL Engineers in diagnosing a broken fiber run into town. The way I see it, CL is still mostly an ATM based DSL prov
  • Two years ago, my street was torn up between the main highway into town and the CenturyLink switch, so that large-diameter orange cable could be extended to it. Yes, fiber! Fiber that could solve our area's ISP duopoly problem, where our choice is between CenturyLink's poky 10M service and that nice fast SuddenLink 50M service that is near-useless because of a low usage cap.

    I checked, and CenturyLink has no intention of using that fiber to offer faster service anytime this century.

  • Allow them to cherry pick and mandate them to expand to the poor.

    Comcast won't have a leg to stand on, and the cherry picker will be forced to expand and compete.

    Alternatively, comcast should be forced to make high speed internet inexpensive when the consumer decides to not take them up on television or phone service.

    If Comcast shuts up about someone competing with them, then maybe both of them can avoid getting legislated.

  • Centurylink (which in this territory acquired Qwest, which was the local baby bell USWest after the AT&T breakup) does their own slimy anti-competitive tricks with their monopoly.

    While DSL providers were required to allow third-party ISPs as a choice to customers (where the copper is Centurylink but the ISP is your choice), they limited the third party ISPs to 7mbps connections while rolling out their own ISP service at 30mbps. Whereas the ISPs provide professional and business class service, Centuryli

  • About ten years ago they replaced the copper phone lines along my street with fiber. It made the land line phone connection a lot more reliable (cell service here still sucks), but they said we were too far from town to get DSL. Then about 5 years ago they called and asked if I wanted DSL. Cable is still a few miles away but they'll never bother running it out here because everyone who wants it has a dish and DSL already. Not the fastest broadband, but plenty fast for us up here in Appalachia.
  • Should be from the NO SHIT Department.

    Also, pot calling the kettle black as I'm sure CenturyLink is being as anticompetitive as they can, too.

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