Disclosure: This is an opinion piece. Nothing more or less. The writer is currently, unfortunately, a customer of Comcast.
There is a conflict going on. Not related to gaming, but related to something wider. Its a conflict for the fate of the internet in the United States and elsewhere. A major player in it, and some might say, the main centerpiece of it all, is none other than Comcast. Comcast is known widely for its poor customer service, unwillingness to introduce faster speeds for its customers, and its disdain for competing with other Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Comcast is also fighting for its life. They cannot afford to lose this war that is being waged against them – Financially or otherwise. If they do, their current business model risks being turned upside down and made irrelevant overnight. Comcast is known for spending huge amounts of time and energy in retaining the customers they currently have in what are effectively legal monopolies. What most people don’t see, or realize, is that there is a much deeper and well founded concern than that of simply losing customers to current competition.
They are afraid of becoming the next America OnLine. AOL as it was known, was at one point one of the leading ISPs for people in the United States. It managed to make signing up for and connecting to the internet a simple affair for its members. As time went on though, AOL was unable to adapt to new technologies quick enough, and their customers moved on to other ISPs that were offering better customer care and better prices in comparison. As their market share declined, instead of adapting, they switched markets entirely and became a media company.
The part of this that relates to Comcast’s current situation is that they have the same business model of not upgrading their service, and not adapting to new technology. In fact, Comcast has done all in its not-insignificant power to work against new technology becoming available to consumers. They have a history of being very much against introducing better networks, and have only done so when they have no other choice – for example, when Google Fiber decided to start its experiment in Kansas City, Kansas.
Comcast understands that if they lose the current conflict over the future of ISPs in the United States, that their entire business model turns them into the next AO-Hell. They consider it a priority enough to have spent USD $12 million on lobbying alone in 2014. The real problem is that if ISPs become regulated like utilities, the risk is then posed that other competitive ISPs might start popping up. They lack the time and energy to properly fight against each and every single one. Its a simple fact and side effect of how huge Comcast actually is.
There reaches a point when you become large enough, that sooner or later, you won’t be able to fend off a lot of smaller competitors. It then becomes economically viable to not expend as much energy on each competitor as they might expend on a competitor like Google. It happened to AOL, and on a much larger and more catastrophic scale, it is the same thing that eventually spelled the downfall of the Roman Empire. That is, they got so big that expanding any further would have actually become harmful. I believe that Comcast has very much reached this point, and is only starting to see that people are not happy with them. The struggle is not only over ‘if’ they are made to face a lot of competition, but how much competition they will have to face.
All is not lost, however. If you are a United States citizen, you can petition the FCC to reclassify ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. You can do the same thing to tell them what you think about the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger. More information on how to do that can be found here at The Consumerist.
TechRaptor is a supporter of Net Neutrality and the reclassification of ISPs as utilities under Title II in the United States. We encourage you to contact your representatives and the Federal Communications Commission.