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Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, recently announced its intentions to purchase Time Warner for a staggering price tag of over $45 billion. The deal would result in a customer base of nearly 30 million, and though it has yet to be approved by federal regulators, it has come under heavy public criticism.
The merger resonates with the time of President Roosevelt’s trust busting, when monopolies dominated the communication and finance sector. At the time, consumers demanded more choices in service providers, claiming companies were driving prices upward and exploiting the lack of competition.
Yet we have much to learn from the days of single-provider services. What the people living in the era of monopolies failed to recognize was the simplicity of having zero options. In a modern world with too many choices, perhaps Comcast is taking a stride toward a future in which consumers won’t have to fret about competitive pricing, and can take the only option on their plate without being forced to think twice about the quality.
Imagine going to the grocery store in a world without brands. Typically, the average shopper is going to spend more time discerning the differences between Cheez-It’s and Cheese Nips than actually shopping. But if both options were consolidated into the Comcast Cracker, if you will, the trip through the snack isle would be much simpler.
Think about the last time you wanted to switch cell phone providers. You probably found yourself reviewing contracts between five or six major carriers, each promising a different deal than the last. But what if there was only one contract to be had? Rather than having to choose between giving AT&T the title to your car or sacrificing to your first-born son to Verizon, getting a cell phone would be a one-stop trip to Comcast Call. Although the monopoly contract might be able to demand both your transportation and your kid, at least you won’t lose sleep wondering if you made the right choice.
See, the thing those living under previous American monopolies failed to recognize is that with simplicity comes happiness.
With a single-player market, consumers can’t look back and regret not going with a different product, because there was no other product to be had. Stressing out about, say, buying the bargain brand of deodorant would be a thing of the past, because you wouldn’t be the only one of your classmates noticeably sweating through multiple layers of clothing. You’d never again kick yourself in the rear over skimping on a stereo, because everyone’s speakers would sound like sand being blasted into tin cans and shake like Stevie Nicks on a five-day cocaine binge.
With great monopolies comes zero responsibility. As a consumer, not knowing that a better product is out there would allow you to simply laugh it off when your cell phone doesn’t get service across the entire state of Colorado, or just look the other way when your favorite type of booze suddenly starts giving you violent hives.
In 2013, Time Warner Cable scored just 60 out of 100 possible points in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, making them one of the most hated companies in the country. But consider this: in a world without other cable companies, the only score Time Warner would get is a 100, just for existing.
One hundred percent sounds pretty appealing to me.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Samuel Schanfarber at firstname.lastname@example.org.