Editorial

Monopolies seem to be creeping back into society

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.

Price inflation?

OK, we’re not quite there yet where we have only the last one standing. But we’re going there in a handbasket.

11 Comments

  • Try dealing with the garbage company, that’s a one way street as well. One of our neighbors pays almost 4 times as much we do for the same herbie.

    • Farmers Disposal $15 a month and reliable. Most people are suckers — 250 TV channels by the time you surf all them to see what’s on, it’s time to go to bed. Spectrum had a great deal for me until I learned about all the extra taxes and fees they don’t tell you about during the sale.

  • So true , don’t forget the city of wayland is also cashing in on this because they are the franchise authority. Hopefully soon we will have access to T mobile New 5G internet for $50 a month.

  • One person you can thank is your boy Obama. He did about everything to protect companies like GE.
    As always, follow the money already.

    Just my opinion.

    • Wrong again phoney Christian, I hear your orange god is asking for your money to replace his airplane. Do the right thing and give as much as you can……… Skoal !

      • About 10 years ago after having Spectrum internet and TV (called Charter then), and saw my monthly rate skyrocket, I called as I had done several times in the past, but for the first time I got “I can’t do anything about reducing your bill.” It was obvious that Charter/Spectrum had adopted the same response Comcast, the other cable/internet providers had been using, so I turned in my cable box.

        I purchased a Roku to stream for $60-$70 and an indoor flat antenna with a 50-mile range for $35. Then subscribed to Netflix (now $10/month) Hulu with ads ($7/month) and Amazon Prime video only ($9/month). There are also streaming channels that are free to stream.

        So my Spectrum bill of $74.99 for internet plus 3 streaming channels is $101/mo. With the antenna I get channels 41 (ABC), 3 (CBS) 8 (NBC) and 17 (Fox), along with about 20 other channels that program reruns and some DYI stuff. Lost PBS when they lost a bid for a tower.

        We decided getting access to ESPNs, Weather Channel, CNN, FoxNews, CNBC and Discovery wasn’t worth extra Spectrum charges. As Mr. Longstreet pointed out, in our case the advertised $44.99 a month for Spectrum’s Streaming service doesn’t include sales tax.

        We do have two mobile/cell phones through Consumer Cellular with a monthly bill of $55, including taxes. That beats Spectrum’s new mobile service by $3 to $4 per month and you have a choice of carriers of T-Mobile or AT&T.

        Have to hand it to Spectrum and Comcast, they way they have effectively used divide to conquer so every municipality has their own cable authority. Also have to congratulate the on their effective lobbying in multiple states where they have gotten legislation written by their lobbyists to be sponsored and put into law making it nearly impossible for a local competitor to offer high speed internet,

        In Holland, the local utility Board of Power and Light investigated offering it to their customers since they have the technology and own the power poles. Spectrum took them to court. In Western Oklahoma after the existing cable carrier refused to extend service residents of a community the rural electrical utility made high-speed internet available for $50/month. So successful that other rural power companies wanted to copy their efforts. Instead, the big cable operators sued, claiming they still had right to stop others like utilities from providing high speed internet to communities they deemed unprofitable.

        PS
        I suggest commenters review what happened and more importantly, didn’t happen from 2017 tp 2021 when President Trump’s nominee, Ajit Pai, became the chairman of the FCC and fought net neutrality the entire time until he left that job in 2021.

        • Couchman — spot on again, not sure what old David’s reference was to President Obama, Jack Welch was a big republican donor as virtually all the CEOs of GE. He revived over 400 million in a severance package, the largest ever at the time for a CEO when he departed from GE in 2001. Obama become president in ’08……… Skoal!

  • Google phones are about $35.00 a month, plus $16.00 for the phone, zero interest on the phone, and the you own the phone after 2 years. You can also direct dial 160 countries, at no extra cost.

  • You actually can have your internet access for $5 to $15 per month but it will require lifestyle changes. The state provides this opportunity per guidelines defined via the State Department of Education.

    For starters you would need to live in location where the infrastructure already exists for the ISP (Spectrum (aka Charter), Comcast, Century, or AT&T).

    Then you’ll need babies. At least one child in the National School Lunch Program.
    And you can’t have any outstanding debts to these ISP providers and not have had a contract with them in the past 60-90 days.

    And finally, your combined income for a family of 2 cannot exceed $23,517.
    Simply stay in compliance with “The State” and you are in!

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