ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.
My wife and I get our Internet, land line telephone and cable television services through the Charter Spectrum Triple Play program. We’ve done so for a long time.
Though the Internet service has been very good, the problem is that our combo rates have steadily increased over the years to the point now where Spectrum costs us more than $200 per month.
My wife was outraged by the latest price hike and called the company to give them a piece of her mind. It didn’t matter. The polite response was, “Sorry you feel that way. Good-bye.”
This leaves us with very few unpleasant options — give up these services entirely or switch to dish or perhaps A T & T. That’s about all.
So an impolite response from Charter Spectrum actually could have been, “Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it?”
I was struck immediately by the quiet, slow, but steady growth of monopolies in our society over the past 40 years since the beginning of the era of deregulation and resultant continual process of supply-side, or trickle-down economics.
But in the words of the late great comedian George Carlin, “Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”
A little critical connect-the-dots thinking can bring you to the conclusion that we are being overtaken by giant corporate monopolies. The most obvious that come to mind almost immediately are in the communications, banking, automobile and health care industries. These were economic fields that in days gone by had plenty of players in the game and we were told they shouldn’t be regulated because competition was a good thing. But these days there are damn fewer of them remaining in the game.
When I was in seventh grade, my Civics teacher explained a monopoly with an example. He said Standard Oil had wanted for a long time to run competitor Cavalier Oil out of business. A huge, powerful, rich company like Standard then could lower its price of gas to an outrageously low level, eventually causing Cavalier to go belly up. Standard then could charge whatever it wanted to because it had no rival.
I later learned in American history that Republican President Theodore Roosevelt put the brakes on mergers, trusts and corporate takeovers in the first decade of the 20th century, earning him the reputation of being a “trust-buster.”
A little more than a century later, with so much business deregulation in vogue, it appears mergers, trusts, corporate takeovers and eventually monopolies are back with a vengeance.
“But nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”
For those who haven’t been paying attention, we’ve seen a lot of banks come and go, with the exception of United Bank. Who remembers Byron Center State Bank, Moline State Bank, Hastings City Bank, all of which now have new names of financial institutions with corporate headquarters far, far away.
And who remembers Pipp Hospital, Pennock Hospital, Allegan General Hospital? All now are merely satellite players in the Spectrum Health Care system.
There was a time when there were automobiles with names such as Rambler, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, DeSoto, Pontiac. They have been relegated to the dust bins of history, swallowed up by their bigger player cousins under the tents of Ford, GM and Chrysler.
I can remember a wide variety of smaller Internet players in West Michigan, but now it seems your only choices are Direct TV, Charter Spectrum and A T & T. It wasn’t that long ago when the sing-song commercial told us, “Charter Spectrum Triple Play… Call 1-844-4522-999!” That was the introductory offer of $29.99. Now it’s more than $200.
OK, we’re not quite there yet where we have only the last one standing. But we’re going there in a handbasket.