For years and years, cable has told Congress and the FCC not to regulate it as a monopoly, because it is really in heavy competition with satellite.
Between that whopper and the vast political payoffs it makes to maintain friends in the administration and Congress, it has managed to fend off federal scrutiny while behaving exactly as a monopoly in the marketpace: ever-increasing prices, ever-worse customer service.
But now, lo and behold, the Big Lie has become the Expensive Truth. Cable now is indeed facing competition -- a bit from satellite but mainly from telecoms. Hence Comcast's "Triple Play," the voice/data/TV bundle the company is so incapable of installing and supporting. It is a naked gambit to a) grab market share in the broadband/voice free-for-all, and b) boost new-customer "units." In this growth metric closely followed by the industry, every Triple Play subscriber counts as three. Alas, the metric doesn't measure the real effects of churn -- when large numbers of subscribers flee Comcast the moment their promotional pricing expires. It is very expensive to keep unit growth up in the face of inevitable subscriber defection, and Wall Street knows it. In a year, when the first Triple Play customers run for their lives, Comcast will face a Comcatastrophe.
Meanwhile, just as real competition is rearing its head, the FCC has decided that Comcast is on the very cusp of the critical mass deemed to trigger federal broadcast regulation. This means that the company is effectively stymied from growth via acquisition. If it gets any bigger, the federal regulatory hammer comes down.
That's why the stock price was $30 a year ago and $18.50 now. The company has lost 38% of its value because Wall Street thinks it is in trouble. Which it is. because, on top of everything else, the cable TV business will eventually disappear from the equation altogether. The cable (or fiber) coming into your home will be a broadband pipe for internet TV. Cable channels, per se, are an endangered species -- which means, within 10 or 15 years, Comcast will have lost its biggest revenue source.
So there's the irony for you. If, over the past 10 years as it has grown huge crying "Competition! Competition!" Comcast had actually behaved as if there were competetion -- you know, by treating its customers like human beings -- it would not be in the position it's in now. Arrogance and deceit, one could argue, has cost it $25 billion in 2007 alone.