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How to Misuse American Customer Satisfaction Index Data to Try to Block a Merger

Opponents of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger have scrambled to show that companies with larger market shares will hurt consumers, proposing theories built around flawed assumptions. This includes arguments that the new Comcast will suddenly become the only provider or saying that the deal will make the new Comcast a monopsony purchaser of television content.

One metric that they have stumbled upon is data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which gives Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and other television and Internet service providers low scores as compared to other industries.

Several articles (like this one or this one) have bent this finding to argue that a larger company will result in less competition and lower customer satisfaction. Before using the rankings as mud to sling in their holy war against consolidated markets, they should have bothered to look at the reason for the low scores and what they actually say about market competitiveness.

This is what the ACSI data actually shows.

Providing reliable, high-quality Internet and television services across a national network is much more difficult than taking a hamburger order or shipping products bought online. When things

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"Data Cap" - A Man Wearing a Cap Reading "DATA"

Comcast Raises Invisible Data Cap

In what’s going to be seen as a response to strategic criticism, Comcast has raised the consumption cap on its residential broadband service plans from 250 GB per month to 300, the first increase since the cap was adopted in 2008. The increase is unlikely to be noticed by actual Comcast customers because the 250 GB cap wasn’t a problem. The increase hasn’t muted Netflix’ poorly-founded complaints of mistreatment.

Comcast has been criticized recently for its 250GB monthly limit on total downloads by residential broadband customers. Netflix complains that the limit is applied arbitrarily in order to keep it from growing. The Netflix complaints have been echoed by so-called public interest advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge, by the tech bloggers who generally take a hard line against networking companies such as GigaOm’s Stacey Higgenbotham, Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee and Nate Anderson, and the shy piracy advocates who post anonymously at TorrentFreak.

The Netflix argument is that 250 GB is so low that it discourages potential customers from using its service in favor of competing services such as the Comcast Video-on-Demand (VOD) service (operating through

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