The Big Guys Still Call the Shots

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an independent national benchmark that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the U.S. economy. Last month, the ACSI reported that pay-TV and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) rated dead last among 43 industries measured in the index, including government. But you knew that intuitively.

It seems the larger these companies become, the worse the service they provide. And the Trump administration seems poised to loosen the regulatory environment on these behemoths even more than did the Obama administration, which affords them the freedom to do, well, pretty much anything they want.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Sprint has entered into exclusive talks with Comcast and Charter Communications, the two largest U.S. cable companies, to make a move into wireless. The paper and Reuters both report that Sprint and Softbank are putting merger talks with T-Mobile on hold for two months while they attempt to strike a deal with Comcast and Charter to underwrite Sprint’s expansion plans.

As Billshark reported here recently (Cable Company Dinosaurs: They Still Can’t Get It Right), an epidemic of cord-cutting on the part of cable customers has led to some desperation moves by the cable companies, as the future looks increasingly wireless.

According to insider reports, the agreement is simply a chance to discuss potential investments in improving Sprint’s network, but it wouldn’t necessarily preclude eventual acquisition by either T-Mobile or Comcast and Charter. The outcome would be, according to Techdirt, “a joint minority investment by both companies in exchange for a discount network-sharing arrangement to help fuel both cable companies’ attempts to get into the wireless sector.”

If the arrangement remains outside the realm of full-blown acquisition, this could be positive news for consumers as it would keep the four companies intact for now, thus providing at least a veneer of competition among providers. Of course, this means that, as usual, consumers must settle for such crumbs while the giants still call the shots, aided and abetted in their quest for domination by a complicit federal government.

DSLReports said, “Whereas a T-Mobile Sprint merger would eliminate one of only four major competitors in the market, this arrangement would help keep Sprint afloat and will likely be seen as a better option for consumers longer term. Either option [minority ownership stake or outright acquisition] is likely to be approved by the Trump administration’s FCC [Federal Communications Commission] and DOJ [Department of Justice], however.”

Fierce Telecom Editor Mike Dano told CBS News that the Sprint/Comcast/Charter deal “isn’t as transformational as a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile would be. It makes a lot of sense for the two of them because it gives them the opportunity to really challenge Verizon and AT&T.”

As TechDirt reported, “How all of this shakes out (and whether it’s good for anybody not named Sprint, Comcast or Charter) remains unclear. ... Charter and Comcast are no strangers to anti-competitive behavior, and adding another entire service segment to this well-documented dysfunction could prove disastrous for what’s already some of the worst customer service in any industry in America.”

All this makes one long for the days when the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was still enforced.

Meanwhile, though, you still have Billshark on your side, helping you in your fight to keep them from lining their pockets at your expense.

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