back to article You. Comcast, TWC, Charter, DirecTV, Dish. Get in here and explain yourselves – Congress

The US Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has called on the nation's cable and satellite providers to testify about their customer service failings. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) said that they have requested that executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, DirecTV and Dish …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Ni Ni Ni

    Regional monopolies, we demand that you offer your customers slightly better than abysmal service ... or we will say ni again!

    1. energystar
      Windows

      Re: Ni Ni Ni

      A first win of this hearing is that their deceptive PR will be repeated this time over Senate Face and on National Witness. Let's hear carefully selected 'nice' words [Out of Senate own 'nice' dictionary] and promises made with crossed fingers at the back, again.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Ni Ni Ni

      "Regional monopolies"

      And that's exactly the problem. Monopolies entrenched by bribes paid to state Public Utilities Commissions.

      I use the word bribe advisedly.

      The companies were supposed to get monopolies in exchange for infrastructure enhancements and fibre rollouts which never happened, and then they had those monopolies extended plus mergers granted in exchange for more enhancements which in turn never happened - and not only were no questions were ever asked about those not-happening enhancements, but they simply disappeared from the memory of the PUC commissioners.

      This state level corruption has enabled AT&T to almost completely reassemble it (into 2 halves) without that pesky Universal Service obligation from the 1930s antitrust settlements and similarly allowed the cablecos to assemble themselves into large amoeboid conglomerates.

      The FCC's been wanting to take action for a long time, but because this has been happening at state level it's extremely hard to do anything (they can generally only get involved on inter-state issues).

      What'll come out of these grillings is a few PR events where execs get to wriggle uncomfortably but unless the Senate gives the FCC greater powers it's unlikely to change anything.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Thank God!

    "Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has called on the nation's cable and satellite providers to testify about their customer service failings"

    That will give us something to watch that is longer and more interesting than the Presidential election!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Thank God!

      "We believe our hearing will be a big step forward for consumers, allowing them to understand how their TV providers really work and make informed decisions about their video service."

      Yes, one can watch it, but no one ever does. Watching these "investigations" for most folks is akin to watching paint dry. That and the fact that they're streamed either while most people are at work or at 3 in the morning is irrelevant to politicians.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Thank God!

      One suspects that it may not be available on cable TV.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Thank God!

        C-SPAN covers most of these things. The other networks like NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS, et al only seem to grab sound bites that interest them and feed whatever agenda they have.

  3. ma1010
    FAIL

    Posturing, more than likely

    With a major election coming, they're putting on a good show. However, I REALLY doubt that anything much will come of this. It would be nice if they would pass some law to actually HELP the public, such as requiring all areas to have at least two carriers for people to choose between and to require all service plans to be written in PLAIN ENGLISH and be no longer than half a page long, and I mean in 12 point Arial font or the equivalent - no fine print.

    Of course, nothing like this will ever happen. It will be "business as usual" meaning that the consumer will continue to get a true shafting.

    1. Dadmin
      Meh

      Re: Posturing, more than likely

      One can only hope that the congress critters themselves have these services and are already good and pissed about it. Although, if they are not already free and have all the channels unlocked, then you can be sure they will be offered those as bribes along with the cash money the bribery specialists, AKA lobbyists will hand out like candy to the congress. Consumers are the last to get the perks.

      Also, if you want free service for a month, call your provider, of anything, and complain at length and threaten to leave, and they will "magically" give you free service for a time. How can they do that without going out of business? It's a mystery, guy

    2. oiseau Silver badge

      Re: Posturing, more than likely

      "Of course, nothing like this will ever happen. It will be "business as usual" meaning that the consumer will continue to get a true shafting."

      As it always happens with monopolies / oligopolies in extremely "business friendly" environments.

      Have a good week-end.

    3. energystar
      Windows

      ...requiring all areas to have at least two carriers ...

      Know of one case where both carrier main shareholders, where family. Problem is not the number, -could be one, and a healthy market- but deliberate isolation and undue privileges, [by example, through Buffet doctrines or worst, cartel practices].

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Posturing, more than likely

      OK, who pays for the second carrier when it's so remote that the ONLY way a carrier will be willing to roll out is by an exclusivity contract? Now you're going to have places with NO coverage because it's not worth it to cover the place otherwise.

      Remember, a lot of utility monopolies are de facto, not de jure, a simple result of utilities having high upfront costs that pretty much limit viability in smaller markets.

      1. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: Posturing, more than likely

        OK, who pays for the second carrier when it's so remote that the ONLY way a carrier will be willing to roll out is by an exclusivity contract? Now you're going to have places with NO coverage because it's not worth it to cover the place otherwise.

        I live in a place where there are two "competing" (hah) service providers. Both have decided that my location is not worth either of their time, even with a complaint to the FCC. Lots of people here, but none of us are ruling class. Welcome to small town America.

    5. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: Posturing, more than likely

      "It would be nice if they would pass some law to actually HELP the public, such as requiring all areas to have at least two carriers for people to choose between..."

      Needs to be more than just that. I get to choose between AT&T and Comcast, which is like choosing between having your left nut cut off or your right nut cut off. It's not really a choice.

  4. Efros

    Pointless...

    like anything involving big business being called to book in the US, at some point in the proceedings someone who has had a chequebook flashed at them will roll over and call the whole thing off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pointless...

      But there's a possibility someone will flash ANOTHER checkbook to keep things going...

  5. Mikel

    An oldie but goodie

    The First Honest Cable Company. https://youtu.be/0ilMx7k7mso

    At work you will want the headphones.

  6. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Land of the ree

    to monopolise.

  7. thexfile

    Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are simply wanting a payoff. It's common practice for these committee guys.

    Government corruption is systemic in America.

  8. Mad Chaz

    "The industry-funded American Cable Association reckons the FCC's stipulation that Charter expand into underserved areas will bring competition that will hurt ISPs already in those markets."

    You know they are a proper monopoly when the "big guy association" is scared of competition. They know they got no little guy left to compete with so it's all money out of big guy pocket. (Yes, I used singular, not plural)

    I agree they should cancel that provision ... along with the entire merger. I think it's time to consider breaking them up again, not letting them re-fuse.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But what's to stop them coming back together AGAIN? That's the thing with capitalism at its core. The small fish get eaten up by the bigger fish. All you do is buy some time until someone gets big enough fast enough to resist a breakup.

  9. Howard Hanek
    Childcatcher

    My Question

    The pols.....are they creating a straw man or a rag doll or will the 'solution' be an application of lipstick on a pig?

  10. Someone Else Silver badge

    Act 1, Scene 4

    Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) said that they have requested that executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, DirecTV and Dish come to Washington, DC, and explain the consistently poor reviews their organizations receive every year from customers.

    Ahh, yes...I can see it now:

    Congresscritter: Awright now, Mr. Head Cable Weenie, explain yerself:

    Head Cable Weenie: Well, Guv'ner, we wuz just mindin' our own bizzness, 'ere, just tryin' to increase share'older value we wuz...an' doin' a-right good job of it, too, if we do say so ourselves. But then these damn customers started gettin' in our wayz, you see...an' well, we couldn't 'ave that, now could, we, Guv? So we tol' them all to bugger off. And they got all 'uffy 'n started comploi-nin!. That's all it is, Guv'ner.

    Congresscritter: Comploi-nin' about raisin' share'older value, eh? Is that all it is? Well, then...carry on. Nothin' more to see 'here. Time for a brandy!

  11. Youngone Silver badge

    We want answers

    When called to explain, the Telcos will explain that they are huge, massively profitable monopolies, which generate an awful lot of campaign contributions for committee members.

    The committee members will explain that there's an election coming up soon, so they should at least look like they're acting in the interests of the voters.

  12. Joe Gurman

    And Verizon is left off the list because....

    ....why?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And Verizon is left off the list because....

      They'll be there in three weeks time between 4am and 9pm.

  13. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    A la carte

    maybe? No, still a pipe dream, I guess. Blah blah poor channels blah blah never get seen otherwise blah blah subsidized.

    At least they should let us switch a few channels for others. I'm a nerd, and never, EVER, watch any of the 50+ ESPN and other sports channels on my plan, but I would dearly love to have the Science channel so I can veg-out to How It's Made. I'd gladly trade all 50+ sports channels for just the Science channel.

  14. jnegro1176

    Cablevision / Optimum ?

    Don't appear to be on the list. I actually hope they aren't. I've typically had nothing but good experiences with them in the New York City metro area. Their services is always at/above what they promise and they don't tend to play price games with me. I recently switched to their cord-cutter plan for 60Mb internet only for $45/mo, no contract or expiration. I think they're one of the only providers that gets the idea - TV is dying and internet streaming is the future.

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