A Quick Two Cents on Comcast & Time Warner Cable

It seems a lot of people are not thrilled about the prospect of Comcast buying Time Warner Cable. I’m one of them. A transaction like this one, where #1 and #2 are joining, should benefit the public in some way. I don’t think that would be the case here.

Comcast is absolutely right when it says not much will change. Comcast and Time Warner Cable both have monopolies in their respective regions. Joining the two won’t decrease competition today, as the two companies don’t really go toe to toe in many markets.

The thing is, if Comcast is allowed to buy TWC, that means TWC won’t ever have the chance to enter Comcast’s territory to compete. Time Warner Cable may be number two, but it has the best shot at expanding into the markets that Comcast currently serves. An acquisition would leave it up to Cox (a very-distant third) to apply pressure.

When you look at it that way, the purchase would remove any shot at meaningful competition in the future. That is bad for consumers.

Comcast has made it a point to keep us focused on the TV side of things (and the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board did a great job following the laser pointer) but broadband is what’s really at stake here. So while Comcast is pointing to services like Netflix and Hulu as reasons the deal should go through, look instead at the number of broadband options you have in your neighborhood, and then remember that Comcast wants to acquire the only cable broadband provider with a shot at catching up.

If government regulators do their jobs, this deal won’t go through.

Life & Time

This past Saturday, I spoke to my grandfather on the phone about how he could fix up one of his websites. Each time we talk, whether it’s by phone, email, or in person, these lines usually work their way into the conversation.

“Hey, you know what you should do? [insert seven or eight business ideas here].”

They’re always unrelated to the Web or to tech in general, so they’re not really up my alley. But the constantly turning gears always inspire me.

Decades ago, my grandfather started a lapping company called Lapco, which he later sold to a German company called Stahli. I just know that, if he had seven or eight more lives to live, he’d try to become successful in seven or eight other industries. An entrepreneurial streak runs through that side of my family, and I’m pretty certain I inherited it.

This, of course, has made working for another company quite the challenge.

A flaw of mine is that I feel the need to put my stamp on everything, so to speak. I’m certain I have driven my bosses mad by trying to change things that have been in place for years. But that’s just me. Even outside of work, I enjoy meddling in things that aren’t my specialty, but are still things I think I could positively impact in some way. You might say I’m unfocused. I disagree. At the end of the day, we each have one life to live, and doing just one thing really well seems like an unsatisfying way to live it in my eyes.

A legacy means nothing to a dead person. Money means nothing to a dead person. If you ask someone slipping away on their deathbed what they wish they had more of, the answer you’d probably get is “Time.” What I want is to adopt the perspective of someone who wishes they had done more while I’m still able to do more.

So, from here on out, that’s the plan.

Coming up soon

I’ve been pretty quiet over here — in fact, my last post was in July — but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.

A little over a year ago, I determined that I was going to phase out 20five, my freelance gig. In June of this year, I (very quietly) did that. After a little bit of debate, I settled on a name for a new venture that tied more closely to communications: Convoh. The goal here, however, is not only to offer the services I used to, but to experiment with different ideas, methods, and potential products; to be more “lab” than “agency.”

In addition to Convoh, but along the same lines of experimentation, I’m going to add a few web properties to the fold as time goes on. One of those, Geartap, I hope to launch before the end of the month. Another, which is already somewhat established, will come as soon as I’m comfortable owning up to it. ;) Others will come later, and all will serve as from-scratch case studies on what out-of-the-box actions do and don’t work when launching and maintaining media properties and social media outposts. Translation: a way for me to test new ideas without screwing up work I’m getting paid for.

Speaking of… it was suggested today that the community in the Harrisburg area doesn’t like to share with each other. I’m always willing to help friends if I can, and to clarify: if I offer my help on something, I’m not expecting to charge you! It’s a personal favor. That is how I roll. Some people seem to have a misunderstanding with that. If you think I can help you out, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email — shawn at convoh dot com, or call 717-884-9763. Seriously.

Have a great Friday and an even better weekend, folks.

@shawn

Finally

After a painfully long week, the previous tenant canceled his Comcast service today. I will give the Big C a little bit of credit — they did come offering to help get the service shut off, though it was about an hour too late.

I’m not even going to bother going through this with Verizon. That can just stay there. I don’t care.

Now let’s see how quickly they come out here to hook me up.

Comcast: Let me pay you money for your service, please

“Keep walking. Yes, that’s it.
You’re so close to being Comcastic!”

Comcast, you are so dumb. For real.

I’ve talked to countless specialists over the phone. I’ve had live chats with two reps in the past 24 hours. I’ve even taken a copy of my lease (with photo ID so that you know I’m actually who I say I am) to the local service center here in Harrisburg. What do I have to show for it?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

This is the sign of a monopoly, folks. When you exhaust every option the company gives you and they still continue to give you the run-around, like they really don’t care if you’re a customer or not. I’ve been trying for almost a week now to get Comcast here and, judging by the way things have been handled so far, they aren’t interested.

A rep told me late last night to take a copy of my lease to the local service center and that would definitely take care of things. And by take care of things, he meant they’d have someone disconnect the previous tenant’s service ASAP.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, the woman at the counter (who seemed to hate life) told me there was nothing she could do. The previous tenant wasn’t late on payments, so the service couldn’t be disconnected. Baffled, I stated the obvious.

“But he doesn’t live there. I do. It’s just me. That guy is not there.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Before my head exploded with such force that a mushroom cloud would be seen from Colonial Park, I left.

Comcast, seriously, you’re screwing up. Open up my novel-length case file and see how many reps I’ve talked to. Get someone out here to disconnect this crap OR THE BLOG POSTS WILL CONTINUE (cue dramatic music).

Bringing change to office culture

Sometimes, I wonder – if I ran a startup, what would my office be like? What would the hours be like?  Would I have a dress code?  What rules would I set up?

In a perfect world, I would probably be a huge proponent of a six hour workday, from 8am until 2pm.  Why?  This would allow employees to knock out some errands they might have trouble completing otherwise.  Most workers end their day at 4:30 or 5 and, as a result, leave the office as most businesses are closing up for the day.  This would also keep parents from having to worry about after-school care for their kids.

I would toss a permanent dress code out the window.  I would much rather have someone focused on their work and not on how uncomfortable they are in their attire.  Who decided there had to be a such thing as business wear, anyway?  It was very likely someone in the business of selling suits.  The idea that not dressing “business casual” or not wearing a suit is unprofessional is ridiculous.  It’s an idea that will continue to hang around until change pushes it out.

What other rules would I have?  I like to think I’m a pretty fun guy who is also pretty creative.  I believe that social media is going to have a big impact on the way businesses operate.  So mixing those two, I would probably require that each employee spend some of their day interacting on industry-related blogs and conversing with clients through Twitter or other social networks.  I would have a company blog and my employees would take turns writing one post per day.  I’m a firm believer in transparency – a company tends to get the benefit of the doubt much more when trying to be transparent.  When one becomes more familiar with a company and those who work there, they are more forgiving if that company makes a mistake.

I am starting to see this culture change take shape in many of the new web startups.  There are quite a few these days (if you haven’t noticed) and each one wants to lure in the best talent possible.  To do that, they’ve had to offer a change from the typical corporate office culture and offer up something new and exciting.  These startups also realize that they are not starting out with brand recognition and will have to work extra hard to gain customer loyalty.  This is where transparency can really be effective.

You’ve learned all about the type of culture I’d want in my office.  What would you want in yours? Would you choose a newer school of thought or would you stick with old-school office culture?