Monday, June 11, 2012

Haggling with the Disgruntled Customer

In a series of posts across three blogs, there has been a discussion about the pricing discrimination, lack of broadband competition, and the public policy issues.
In The Philly, the blogger sums up much of what Tim Lee has written about his adventures with Comcast over just getting Internet only, on the Forbes site (and here). In short, Tim just wants Internet only and the price keeps increasing. Tim has to keep calling in to remove the price increases, which is described as a price discrimination strategy. If you want to spend the time, you can get the price reduced. But haggling with them will only make you hate the company.
The problem arises due to a lack of true broadband competition.
"More than 15 years after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was supposed to bring a new era of competition, Comcast, Charter and their counterparts still enjoy monopoly or near-monopoly status in their markets," writes The Philly.
The Top 10 MSO's have generally won the broadband war - and only do just enough to sustain that top spot - and not one ounce of effort more than that.
Sure, there are pockets of very fast DSL via U-Verse or some version of FTTx, like FiOS. There are fixed wireless ISP's, like CLEAR and the WISPA membership. How many of these deliver 5MB or more to the household consistently and fairly reliably?
Many will say that cable is not consistent or reliable. My reply: It depends. It goes back to doing "just enough" to keep the customer and be highly profitable.
What Comcast & Co. fail to realize is that their Brand is a large asset on their books that they need to protect, not depreciate. As customers become more and more disillusioned, the price war will be bloody. Customers jumping back and forth between the duopoly towers is not profitable for either company.
"The service provider problem (that they created): “Our customers have gotten so used to back-to-back promotions,” Comcast’s corporate rep told me, that it’s been a hard transition to the new, higher-price regime."" What they are really saying is that we can only jack the rate up for a few of our customers.
"From a public policy viewpoint, this is where the old-fashined idea of a "regulated utility" is supposed to come into place. A regulator could just say forget about DSL, this is a natural monopoly business and we're not going to count on very limited market competition to discipline Comcast," writes Slate.
The other side of regulation: "The risk here is that appointing good cable regulators is probably not a top priority for the median voter while appointing company-friendly cable regulators is a very high priority for Comcast's lobbyists."
The problem with reselling ILEC DSL is that you can't compete any better than they can - less even since you have zero control over their DSL network. The same holds true for reselling cable modem service. Sure, you can make a small margin on re-billing the services, but have no control over the quality of the service.
The last point is that with the non-transparent pricing that the Duopoly offers, your customer can ALWAYS get a better price if they are willing to haggle.
Lately, I am getting beaten up for circuits. SP's want the price of P2P circuits to be sub-$1000, but even at T1 levels that is usually not an available price point. The circuit is beyond a commodity now. It is all about the services layered on top of that - and the customer service that comes with the circuit. (I think I provide added value to the circuit, but not everyone sees that value, I guess.)

No comments: