That this might actually mean something positive for consumers – i.e. don’t squeeze my Roku!

New fears that Big Cable will squash online-video competition has caught the attention of the Justice Department — and is one of several antitrust issues now facing cable giant Comcast Corp.

Investigators have sent the equivalent of civil subpoenas to Comcast, other pay-TV providers, and programmers, in a broad sweep for information about contract provisions related to online video. It’s an industrywide probe.

Comcast’s proposed deal to sell wireless spectrum through a consortium of cable companies and partner Verizon Wireless to market quad-play bundles — wireless phone, wireline phone, Internet, and cable TV — is being analyzed separately by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. Critics say the deal amounts to a business truce between Comcast and Verizon Communications Inc., which controls Verizon Wireless and also competes with Comcast with its FiOS TV and Internet products. Comcast and Verizon officials say that there is no truce and that they still will compete.

In addition, Judge John R. Padova has scheduled for trial in September a class-action antitrust lawsuit that, since late 2003, has been wending its way through federal court in Philadelphia. The suit claims that Comcast clustered its cable systems in the Philadelphia region through swaps with other cable companies, leading to market power and higher prices for consumers.

Legal issues in the three cases are different, and, Comcast officials say, the matters are unrelated. But observers note that a common thread is the company’s willingness to push legal limits when pursuing growth.

Experts say that it’s very early in the online-video investigation, but that the probe seems serious.

“Online television is now getting to the point where it is a real threat to cable companies, and anything the cable companies do to undermine that threat will draw antitrust scrutiny,” said Ankur Kapoor, a partner and antitrust specialist with Constantine Cannon, a New York law firm.

2 thoughts on “Hopeful

  1. Here in my part of suboonia,northern NJ, Cablevision has begun its “improvement” in service to its analog customers by…removing the analog signal entirely and requiring a set-top* digital box for every TV in the house. These customers are those with broadcast basic cable only, and some with the no longer offered lower priced family basic service. Also, many people had analog TV’s in seldom used areas, which were working just fine.

    What happened to the promise Cablevision made that analog would be available over its cable system and therefore none of its customers had to buy an over-the-air HD antenna thingy, for which the government had supplied coupons? Oh, and it made that promise because the FCC required that it not end analog signals…? The one I believed? Bcz it was not only the cable company’s promise, but a Federal requirement?

    Think of the power of the One Percent and Big Bidness.

    Well, Cablevision went to the FCC and persuaded it that, since analog required wider bandwidth than digital, it could provide “more swervices,” for a price of course, to its customers by “freeing up” that analog bandwidth. And it would provide digital cable boxes for two whole years to those customers — before charging $7 a box (today’s cost, which will rise I’m sure) and remote per TV set.

    And the FCC said, sure, go ahead.

    Well, I got my boxes and so far none of them function because, guess what, the digital boxes require “more frequency” to function. While every set had functioned before, now none can get a complete signal. I can clearly see which station and program is supposed to be there, but above the nice clarily and color of the info bar at the bottom everything is gray fuzz.

    I’m told I will need a booster, maybe rewiring to increase the efficiency of the wiring to each TV to make as short as possible. It’s also possilbe something can be done with the house to main cable wire.

    I haven’t asked yet who bears the cost of that “boost” or rewiring….

    Roku is looking a hell of a lot better! I don’t think the cable companies efforts,

    Gee, little consumers vs. Big Bidness. Wonder how that will turn out.

    *Set-top box– these boxes by Scientific American have their only ventilation taking up about one third plus of the top of the box. And it’s big enough to make my present kitchen TV space impossible to use.

    My conumdrum is that Cablevision is the only decent broadband in my area. Verizon won’t wire my lower economic quintiles town for FIOS, DSL sucked when I had it, and there’s nothing else. Cablevision also charges $50/month for its broadband — the lowest speed (which was once its top speed), higher speed cost even more.

    Hey, FCC, competition, anyone? Anywhere? Some big cites, otherwise, none that I can see.

  2. I had no problem whatsoever with DSL. It was the strange spam filter that Verizon uses on email that drove me away. I’m getting closer all the time to going full-on Roku, with a digital antenna for local channels.

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