Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comcast, Verizon Say They’re Itching to Fight Google, Apple

Late last year, Comcast and Verizon unveiled a whopper of a deal: Verizon would buy a big chunk of wireless spectrum that Comcast wasn’t using. And the cable company and the telco would agree to market each others’ products, and create a joint venture that’s supposed to work on cool new technology.

Is that good for consumers? There’s an obvious fear that when two big utilities agree to work together, the end result will be higher prices and fewer choices for their customers. So today the two companies are testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee, trying to explain why that’s not the case.

The hearing kicks off at 2 pm ET, and you can watch a Webcast here. But the people who present at these things give out their testimony in advance, and while that reduces any chance for drama, it is helpful for reporters on deadline.

For instance, here’s an interesting argument from David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president: If you let us little guys work together, he says, we can take on the really big guys:

“By enhancing the Cable Companies’ and Verizon Wireless’s own products and services, the Joint Venture will compete with similar solutions that AT&T, Dish Network, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others already have introduced into the marketplace. This, in turn, will spur other companies to respond, perpetuating a cycle of competitive investment and innovation.”

Wait a minute. AT&T and Dish are direct competitors with Verizon and Comcast. And it’s possible that those other guys might be one day, particularly as Google gets ready to start selling broadband and cable in Kansas City. But what exactly is Cohen talking about there?

The footnotes in Cohen’s remarks here are interesting. To back up his argument, he cites the following news items: Google’s Android launch; a Google/Sprint deal that put the search giant’s tools on Sprint handsets; Apple’s iPad launch; the fact that many tech companies have been buying wireless patents; and Google’s pending deal for Motorola Mobility.

In other words: In the future, our competition won’t just be other pipe companies, but other device makers, too. If you take him at his word, things are going to get very interesting.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work