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Businesses Government

Comcast-TWC Merger Review On Hold 88

An anonymous reader writes: When the U.S. Federal Communications Commission began reviewing the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, it imposed a 180-day deadline on the review process. The agency has now pushed that deadline back a few weeks after learning that TWC withheld over 7,000 documents they shouldn't have. TWC originally claimed the documents fall under attorney-client privilege, but that appears not to be the case.

Perhaps more disturbing, the article says another 31,000 documents "went missing" because of a vendor error. (Perhaps even more disturbing is that this is a drop in the bucket compared to the sum total of information TWC dumped on the FCC — apparently over 5 million pages. How they can be expected to properly review that much material is beyond me.)

The FCC is also ready to close the public comment period for the merger, during which over 600,000 comments were filed. Critics are making their final arguments and Comcast is tallying up all the nice things people (and paid public relations agencies) had to say.
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Comcast-TWC Merger Review On Hold

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  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @09:13PM (#48664455) Journal

    Somebody please provide ONE case of a merger making a bad company better.

    • .
      OK, Slashdot want's a longer comment than just the subject so, many would also argue that being acquired by HP was actually a good thing for Compaq, though perhaps a bad thing for HP, Compaq is still a potential example of "a" company. There are countless others, though, granted, they tend to be more the exception than the rule. Certainly more than one though.

      • by Cantankerous Cur ( 3435207 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:12PM (#48664681)
        Yes, but I think the threshold of proof here is not just one bad company, but two bad companies coming together and creating a better company. I'm pretty sure the anecdotal evidence for that is scant.
        • sirius and xm radio? :)

        • Also Android wasn't a "bad" company before being bought out and whether Google is "bad" is strictly dependent on how you feel about the whole" you are the product" bit.

          Compare this to Comcast whose rep is sooo bad they changed the name to Xfinity just to lose some of the negative feelings about the brand. Never had TWC but just the fact that this will make the resulting corp a monopoly for all intents and purposes (as the DSL in most areas is subpar and if the rumor going around is true DSL is being aband

          • this will make the resulting corp a monopoly for all intents and purposes

            They are already monopolies in their respective markets, so it won't make anything.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        There's a shade of meaning there. Compaq wasn't a bad company (good companies can get into financial trouble too).

    • by saloomy ( 2817221 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:17PM (#48664703)

      Somebody please provide ONE case of a merger making a bad company better.

      Apple bought Next. The next decade and a half was pretty awesome for the computer industry, and no one can deny Apple's (Next's) role in that.

      And in general, these mergers should be allowed. I also think Comcast / TWC should not have to release any territory as a stipulation for approval.

      What should be stipulated is the removal of any "anti-competitive" agreements these companies have with various municipalities restricting competition in the local broadband market. If you want great service, make the providers compete for your business, and empower consumers with choice!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The apple next acqusition didn't matter much until apple mattered again with the iphone.

        Steve Jobs even admitted the iphone was somewhat of a hail mary play.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The apple next acqusition didn't matter much until apple mattered again with the iphone.

          The iPod was available years before the iPhone, and was what really started Apple's rise to where it is now. Additionally, the introduction of OS X was around the same time, and drew from NeXT's OS quite heavily.
        • The apple next acqusition didn't matter much until apple mattered again with the iphone.

          Apple "mattered again" long before the iPhone hit the market. The products that made Apple relevant again was first the iMac followed a few years later by the iPod. Apple absolutely dominated the mobile MP3 market and still does even today. Apple's financial and mindshare picture was strong again long before the iPhone was ever released.

    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:20PM (#48664723) Journal

      This particular cable merger would be bad. With that out of the way:

      Tons of mom-and-pop shops with a good product but terrible process get bought by companies like Proctor & Gamble who have far better and more efficient processes. They then produce the same great product with more reliable quality at a much lower cost.

          My own company may well become an example- we make terrible products, and have bad process, leading to very slow customer service, etc. That's because I'm very good at designing innovative new software systems, and very bad at running a business. I can think of a dozen well-run software shops that would make us better by taking us over. Their process, their customer service, billing department, etc and our products would be a huge improvement.

      Aside from small companies who just never developed good processes, there have been many famous brands that have been bankrupt or on the way to bankruptcy before being aquired by a better company with a clearer vision or better execution. Given that these companies were going bankrupt, or already bankrupt, for them to survive at all (as a division of a larger company) is better.

      One big, big name is Youtube, who was burning through other people's money faster than a drunk Kennedy and getting rightfully sued every 5 minutes for copyright infringement. They had a cool idea, and a completely non-sustainable business model that was guaranteed to put them belly-up within 36 months until Google bought them. Google brought to bear their expertise in funding a free service in a way that keeps customers happy (aka the best targeted advertising available) , allowing YouTube to survive and thrive rather than burning away investors' money until investors got sick of it and'the whole thing imploded.

      • TERRIFIC! We make terrific products, not terrible products. My last post is what happens when typos meet auto correct.

        The products are great, the bookkeeping, support, etc is, shall we say "not world class". A vendor we've used for a long time provides great customer service , with a service that compliments what we do. Our customers would be better served if that vendor bought our company and offered our great products, with their customer service.

        • Sorry. You can't take that back. You will be remembered for making terrible products. But perhaps if you try to sell it such that people think in terms of the original meaning of 'terrible'. You make truly frightening products that strike terror into the competition. Doe this help?
      • by hhw ( 683423 )

        One big, big name is Youtube, who was burning through other people's money faster than a drunk Kennedy and getting rightfully sued every 5 minutes for copyright infringement. They had a cool idea, and a completely non-sustainable business model that was guaranteed to put them belly-up within 36 months until Google bought them. Google brought to bear their expertise in funding a free service in a way that keeps customers happy (aka the best targeted advertising available) , allowing YouTube to survive and thrive rather than burning away investors' money until investors got sick of it and'the whole thing imploded.

        YouTube's business model from the beginning was to get bought by Google, and so they focused their business towards that end and succeeded. Had that not been their primary goal, they may have done things very differently. In any event, using them as an example of a smaller company that needed to be bought isn't wrong, but the assertion that they needed the good processes that came from the larger company is false. They were very efficient at exiting for maximum return for their shareholders.

      • Technically, those are company purchases, not mergers.

    • by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:44PM (#48664801)

      most of the cellular carrier mergers
      back in the day you got like 60 minutes a month, used it even if calling on the same carrier, no long distance included, no night/weekend minutes, no roaming unless you paid a lot more money, $.25 cents per text and no choice of text plan and a crappy small network where you drive 50 miles from home and you roam

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        I don't know where you live, but in Canada people get this at a premium rate. And .25 text messages(sending and receiving) was a thing here or may still be a thing.

    • by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2014 @12:16AM (#48665111)
      The American Football League and the National Football League's merger combined the AFL's innovative rule and strategy changes with the marketing, history, and business relationships of the NFL. At the time of the merger, pro football was a mere sideshow in popularity to the college game. (Super Bowl III, the last game played before the merger was announced, was played in the afternoon on New Year's Day in 1969. They couldn't play in prime time because NBC didn't want to put the game on against the college football bowl game that night.)

      Today, the NFL runs the most popular sport in the United States, and everyone involved makes a boatload of money.

      • Thank you. I am reading a biography about General Maxwell Taylor right now and I didn't understand why cancelling a game between West Point and Notre Dame would be such a huge deal. Your comment puts that into much better context!

    • Somebody please provide ONE case of a merger making a bad company better.

      Define "bad company" first. Bad according to what measurable criteria?

      There is plenty of evidence that most mergers tend to destroy value [efinancialnews.com] for shareholders but that doesn't mean the companies were necessarily "bad" or "good" beforehand. There is also plenty of evidence that many mergers are not good for consumers. But again, that doesn't mean the companies were bad or good.

      I can provide you examples of mergers improving the financial and/or competitive position of the companies involved. They aren't hard

  • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @09:27PM (#48664497)

    The politicians who are TWC customers found out that Comcast was giving away VIP support bypass cards [slashdot.org] but TWC wasn't, so they're retaliating. Temporarily, of course, until TWC promises to give them cards after the merger.

  • Alternatives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moj0e ( 812361 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @09:35PM (#48664517) Journal

    Personally, I would like see one of two things happening:

    1. Break up Comcast and make the new pieces share infrastructure (so they would have to compete with each other).
    2. Allow the merger, but with the stipulation that laws would be put in place to spur competition. Such as allowing municipalities to bulid their own network (like Chatanooga).

    While few people actually have a choice, I'm still left wishing I didn't have to choose between AT&T & Comcast.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Being someone who pretty much understands how this stuff works, I don't understand how this idea competitors "sharing" the last mile could work. Do most people here know exactly how granular the technology that is used by cable companies gets? It is not a piece of cable coming from the C.O. to your house. The way the technology used for the last mile (or hundred miles) works is a completely shared infrastructure. A single piece of stretched glass (fiber) carries multiple wavelengths (a few to several dozen)

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        On the technical side, they have the ability to control what load a single customer can put on the shared bandwidth. They tell the cable modem and router behind it where the gateway is. They can share the last mile by each provider renting a slice of the (virtual) connection between CO and customer and can recognize their customers by MAC address to give them the correct GW.

        The rest is a matter of business. The local government could buy them out. They could be legally split like AT&T. They could simply

      • That's not how "shared infrastructure" (in terms of sharing the same infrastructure with multiple ISPs) works though.

        In many countries, most or all ISPs offer their services through the same set of cables as their competitors. The ISP merely has some equipment at a central location (street cabinet, exchange or CO) which sends your data off to it's own network for distribution out to the rest of the Internet.

    • Lucky bastard; I have the choice of Comcast or...Comcast. How the fuck is this not a monopoly, again?
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @09:45PM (#48664567)
    One of the things that they teach at MBA school is that long badgering documents can make up for things like facts and logical arguments. If you look at the documentation in MBA paradises such as military procurement it easily runs into millions of pages for even the simplest of military kit. Often these pages are generated from much more compact groupings of facts which then helps to obscure the reality that these projects are usually total BS. For a simple comparison someone who needs to get to the point where they have completed a doctorate in physics might have used portions of textbooks that totalled in the 100,000 page range. So short of records that simply were an endless list of telephone calls or some such that level of documentation is almost certain to be designed to overwhelm not illuminate.

    When a company feels that they must stoop to such measures so as to bamboozle people like this they have made it clear that what they are doing is very very bad, legally, morally, ethically, and not acting in the public interest. This last bit is critical in that we allow them to use public goods such as the airways which are a limited good. I am sure that other companies could be found that would serve the public interest in a cleaner way. Simply put these companies should lose access to these public goods.
    • Simply put these companies should lose access to these public goods.

      Not gonna happen while people continue to reward them by putting their puppets in office. Pavlov and Skinner proved how things work many years ago.

      • Sadly you are very correct. The wonderful thing is that eventually reality bites their heads off. They distort reality so that things look bright so they can give each other bonuses, raises, and as the organization fails, retention bonuses. But other groups, forces, or intelligent people will recognize that the market has become so distorted that it actually creates a massive opportunity. Often the old will actively fight the new causing the new to be nimble and quickly culling the weakest of the new until
    • One of the things that they teach at MBA school is that long badgering documents can make up for things like facts and logical arguments.

      Really? At what business school and in what class do they allegedly teach this? Unlike you I actually have a business degree and strangely I can't recall that ever being a part of the curriculum.

      You are making up a bunch of bullshit with no factual basis whatsoever.

      If you look at the documentation in MBA paradises such as military procurement it easily runs into millions of pages for even the simplest of military kit.

      The reason that military procurement has a lot of bureaucracy attached is because there is a long and proud tradition of people trying (and often succeeding) at ripping the government off. But you just keep going on trying to create your mythi

      • A well typed argument devoid of logic and fact. Thank you for proving my point. You go through a "Getting to Yes" playbook of straw man arguments, baseless supposition, and wishful thinking being assumed to be reality.

        Now go back to twisting whatever company you work for into knots pursuing metrics that exist wholly to create reports that you can massage into powerpoints that you have to fly to HQ to present to your fellow MBAs denying that your MBA free competition is eating your lunch.

        Merry Christmas
  • seems like a no-brainer. punish weasels.

  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:10PM (#48664677) Homepage Journal

    Of course while they like to point out that their service areas don't overlap so "competition" won't be impacted, they fail to note that because their service areas don't overlap, there has never been any real "competition" to keep prices down.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hey, does anyone know how to publicly comment? I briefly tried to figure this out and came up with filing a comment in a very legal manner, which I don't want to do. Do they have just online comments that they're going to ignore anyway and I can state my case and get all riled up for no good reason because it won't matter but it'll still satisfy my need to rail against the inevitable stupidity and greed and such that will be this planet's downfall? :)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @10:44PM (#48664803)

      http://www.fcc.gov/comments

      Comcast / Time Warner Proceeding # is 14-57

      To file a comment of up to several paragraphs, click on one of the proceedings listed below. To file a longer comment as an attachment, click on submit a filing and include the docket number of the proceeding both on the form and on the attachment.

      If the proceeding you are looking for is not listed, you can go to ECFS and enter the proceeding number.

      NOTE: The filing you are making is a public filing. Any information that you submit will be available to the general public.

    • Dude, what do you think Slashdot is for?
  • Absolutely nothing! It is strictly a formality. A useless ceremonial process to pacify the public into thinking the government responds to them and not the lobbyists who put the money in their pockets.

  • The cable companies know that people are paying attention to this right now. Soon there will be something more interesting provided by the news networks and the public will have forgotten about this. Then it will quietly pass through as though there was never any opposition to it at all.
  • They didn't offer quite enough backsheesh yet. Don't worry, a few more hundred million, and the merger is as good as done.
  • Generally, the deal was lacked due to not receiving documents from TWC.. the two cable companies hold great name in market, this could have adverse effect on market.
  • Can someone explain to me what "7,000 documents" is? Or 31,000 even? are they 1kb sized documents? 1mb? Spreadsheets? Scanned pages?

    I'm baffled by this use of measurement that has absolutely no meaning to the modern world.

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