For many readers of this blog, this story in the Consumerist is a harrowing account.
Only months after moving into his new home in Washington state, Consumerist reader Seth is already looking to sell his house. He didn’t lose his job or discover that the property is haunted. No, Seth can’t stay much longer because no one can provide broadband service to his address; even though Comcast and CenturyLink both misled him into thinking he’d be connected to their networks and in spite of the fact that his county runs a high-speed fiberoptic network that goes very near to his property.
The story itself is as nightmarish as it gets and, in the end, you are kind of relieved he chose to sell his house.
But this also has bearing on the assessment of the Comcast-Time Warner merger. One of their arguments with regard to broadband is that there is satellite availability everywhere and so there is competition. Satellite was listed as a potential provider for Seth but there were issues.
Satellite broadband is getting faster and more affordable, but it’s still significantly more expensive for someone who would be using the Internet both day and night for home and business.
Additionally, Seth’s work requires that he have a VPN connection. Unfortunately, the latency on satellite broadband is so high that most residential-level service providers won’t guarantee that customers can access VPNs. So satellite might get TV and some Internet into Seth’s home, but not into his home office. Thus, strike ViaSat from the above list.
Thus, while there may be competition for some aspects of broadband, you have to take care in inferring from that there is competition with all broadband services.