Monopoly

Monopolies, one entity controlling an entire market and using unfair practices to squash competition, are officially frowned on in the “Free Market”.   Teddy Roosevelt made a name for himself as friend of the Common Man by busting up some big monopolistic conglomerates.   It was called Trust Busting when TR did it, walking quietly, carrying a big legislative stick.   A quick google search gives us:   

When a corporation eliminates its competition it becomes what is known as a “monopoly.” Monopolies took several organization forms including what were known as trusts. Stockholders of several competing corporations turn in their stock to trustees in exchange for a trust certificate entitling them to a dividend…

John D. Rockefeller, ruthless founder, chairman and largest shareholder of the Standard Oil monopoly, found that his vast fortune actually increased when the monopoly he ran was broken into many smaller companies, companies which included ExxonMobil and Chevron. Go figure!

The theory of Trust Busting was that it should not be legal for one giant company, using its vast size and market power, to gain preferential rates for itself and thereby eliminate all competition, control an entire market and charge whatever that market will bear for its products.

Today, since we live in a land of freedom, a nation of law (or, more accurately, two distinct and different sets of laws: one for corporate citizens and their human executors and one for everybody else), where nobody is allowed to run a monopoly, on the books, anyway, such practices are, heh, frowned upon.   We have businesses that are “too big to fail” and the government will use tax dollars to make sure they don’t, sure, that’s the Free Market.   We don’t worry that Google is really the only internet search engine, its name having been verbed to mean “search the internet”. Google, by the merit of its superior product, eliminated the many competing search engines of yesteryear: Altavista and Ask Jeeves are two that come to mind.   I suppose there is still Bing, technically.  I could google it, I suppose.

We live in a corporate culture.   The leaders of business have an army of skilled lobbyists who worked for the government agencies they are now handsomely paid for influencing on behalf of their generous corporate masters.   Corporations have accomplished campaign funders and wheeler dealers who make sure the laws are friendly to the interests of these artificial “persons” known as corporations.  If you were a wealthy psychopath, human or legally created, you might well do no less. 

My internet winks on and off throughout the day and night.  It may be out for ten minutes or an hour, when it goes down.  At times it will be out for two or three hours at a stretch.   It does this unpredictably but it seems to happen more regularly during peak internet use hours, like Friday or Saturday nights when many customers just want to sit back and stream a movie.  

It doesn’t take much research to learn that Spectrum, the company that swallowed up Time Warner, the company owned by, or also known as, Charter, is the only internet provider in my neighborhood.  (You will mention Verizon, and I will say: fuck them.   Here you go.)   Fine, if you want to be technical, internet service in my neighborhood is a duopoloy [1] and customers are free to choose either of the ISP giants.

I called Spectrum a couple of times yesterday, as my internet went out.   I ranted, politely but forcefully, stalling until my internet service came back on line.   The representatives I spoke to were cool, sympathetic.   The first told me at one point that there were 400+ people on my “node”, meaning that our internet was coming into all of our homes through the same “pipeline”.  He noted that 34 other people on my node were currently experiencing no internet.   As this was less than 10%, the company does not consider this an “outage” and so the robot you initially hear tells you confidently that there are no internet issues reported in your area.  The robot then walks you through resetting your modem, unless you shout “representative” forcefully enough over her instructions to be connected to a human.

The second time I called back, an hour or two later, I was again told  by the robot that there was no outage in my area.  The rep I finally talked to was a nice kid.  Tony was entirely sympathetic, in the end even issuing me two days credit, over $3, for the regular loss of internet service I’ve been experiencing.  He and I spoke for about 25 minutes, and during that time the internet winked back on just long enough for me to google this motherfucker, the highest paid CEO in the U.S., probably in the world.

Screen shot 2018-05-09 at 12.51.06 PM.png

I told the kid I had the photo of his grimly smiling weasel CEO up on the screen, Tom Rutledge, I said his accursed name again, repeated his $98.5 million dollar paycheck and riffed on that and how intolerable it is to be at the mercy of a ruthless monopoly.  The rep was very agreeable, had no argument at all, no corporate talking points to spin the situation differently.  He completely understood, from personal experience, how frustrating intermittent internet service is.  

My polite but vicious rant passed the time while waiting for the internet service to come back on-line.   I managed to refrain from referring to Rutledge as anything worse than a grimly smiling weasel.  I had to admire my own restraint, looking at the soulless face of this foul, infected, years unwashed shit-spattered sphincter.  The smug face of a monopolistic master of the universe.

I know, I know!   I’m so judgmental!   Isn’t this piece of shit Tom Rutledge entitled to be paid whatever the market will bear for someone of his superior talents, his genius, his great contributions to society?   I told the kid about the technicians who work for Time Warner/Spectrum/Charter, the ones who have been on strike for over a year.  The company will not bargain with these unionized workers as it seeks to cut their medical and retirement benefits.  

The kid didn’t seem to know much about the strike, or maybe the fact that we were being recorded added to his reticence.   Here you go.   I mentioned to Tony that it was quite possible these rolling outages were sabotage by technicians old Tom Rutledge was nonchalantly fucking by not negotiating with them.  I said that while these interruptions were a major pain in the ass, you had to hand it to the striking technicians if this was industrial sabotage.  Tony sort of agreed.

One reward of a long conversation with a sympathetic phone rep for a huge corporation is that you can sometimes learn something.  Tony told me he was looking at a chart of my intermittent internet service (service which is out right now, I notice…) and could see by all the red areas on the chart exactly how many times, and for how long, my internet has gone out.  I asked him if he could send me that chart.  Naturally, he could not.  It was no surprise.  8% of customers on my “node” were currently experiencing no internet connection.  Not enough, you understand, to call this an outage or service interruption of any kind, but enough to demonstrate that these rolling outages are almost certainly not caused by my modem or router.

Tom Rutledge’s policy is that nobody is entitled to a refund for lack of service unless that service is out for at least 4 hours.  Why four hours?   Rutledge pulled it out of his highly compensated ass.  4 hours of no internet qualifies the customer for a credit of 1/30 of the monthly charge, unless the month has 28 or 31 days, in which case the credit is 1/28 or 1/31 of the monthly fee.   Tony was the first rep who told me he could actually see a visual record of the last month and that the record looked very, very intermittent, sketchy, unreliable.   Several of the other reps had pretended they were bound not to give me a refund for less than fours continuous hours of no service.  Go figure.

I told Tony that while Tom Rutledge smiles his fucking weasel smile and makes new rules to maximize the corporate bottom line, raising rates for shit service by up to 25% a year, underpaying reps and others who do the actual work for Charter/Spectrum, refusing to negotiate with the unionized technical workers, everybody else, of course, is getting what we deserve.   Hey, it’s a free country, you dig?  Even though Charter/Spectrum/Time Warner has a monopoly, or duopoly, for crap internet service in my area, squeezing the bandwidth to provide unreliable service as cheaply and profitably as possible, you have a choice.  You can always choose NOT have internet service.  It’s not a right, it’s a privilege.  This is America, bitches.

American Exceptionalism:  piss on average consumers and insist they are fucking liars for pretending it’s not raining.

 

[1] a situation in which two suppliers dominate the market for a commodity or service.

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