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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts: It’s time to pay the postman. (Just FYI: I am the new postman)

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Faced with difficult questions about his company’s pending takeover of Time Warner Cable — which would combine the two largest cable internet providers in the U.S. into a company consumers will likely hate twice as much — Comcast CEO Brian Roberts made one thing very clear: his company is determined to sit directly in the middle of the tech world.

Roberts, speaking at the Code Conference Wednesday, said Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once told him that Comcast “should be the best dumb pipe,” a common sentiment in the tech industry that internet service providers should get out of the way of the content and device industries and just provide reliable broadband service. But avoiding that low-margin fate has been a telco vow for decades, and Roberts made it very clear that Comcast wants to be “the best pipe.”

That means it wants to preserve a gatekeeper role. In a series of analogies, Roberts likened his company’s role to that of a postmaster, pointing out that Netflix pays hundreds of millions of dollars to mail DVDs to its customers but now expects to be able to deliver the same content over the internet for free.

“They would like it all to be free. I would like to not have to pay for cable boxes,” he said. Delivering bits over a pipe seems just a wee bit more cost-effective than paying the energy and labor costs of physical distribution, but Roberts didn’t get into that.

What should it cost to deliver content over the internet? It’s a contentious question for several reasons. One, of course, is the pending merger, which we believe would hurt broadband consumers by reducing competition and decreasing the incentive for Comcast to upgrade its networks over time. Then there is the debate over net neutrality and paid peering, which are separate issues but ones in which Comcast finds itself in opposition to a lot of tech and new media companies.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Roberts greatly preferred to talk about the traditional television landscape compared to broadband issues, although interviewers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher — aided by audience questions — did their best to force him to talk about broadband.

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57 Responses to “Comcast CEO Brian Roberts: It’s time to pay the postman. (Just FYI: I am the new postman)”

  1. Netflix DOESN’T deliver its content for free they already have to pay you for their servers to have access to the internet. Then the consumer is also paying you to be able to access it at home. STOP TRYING TO DOUBLE DIP!

  2. Jeramy Long

    “They would like it all to be free. I would like to not have to pay for cable boxes,” he said. News flash Mr. Roberts, you don’t pay for cable boxes, we do with those forced leases on our monthly bill because you made it impossible for use to get what we want to see with out your cable box.

  3. scott

    1. The FCC seems to have forgotten that the consumer already pays billions of dollars each month to our beloved (monopolized) broadband providers for access to the internet. Most broadband providers have held a monopoly since the inception of the internet. Its not enough that they bleed the consumer dry with overinflated internet fees. Now they are extorting money from streaming providers because they are cutting into there action. I was raised to believe that our government was supposed to protect its citizens but all that seems to matter now is who has the money. You would think just once the FCC/ government would try to protect the consumer. But we all know that will not happen.

  4. scott

    The FCC seems to have forgotten that the consumer already pays billions of dollars each month to our beloved (monopolized) broadband providers for access to the internet. Most broadband providers have held a monopoly since the inception of the internet. Its not enough that they bleed the consumer dry with overinflated internet fees. Now they are extorting money from streaming providers because they are cutting into there action. I was raised to believe that our government was supposed to protect its citizens but all that seems to matter now is who has the money. You would think just once the FCC/ government would try to protect the consumer. But we all know that will not happen.

  5. Danny More

    When Con Crap takes over Crap Warner. I will see just what they do.
    If they pull some big crap. Like I bet they will. No prob.
    I will just get my NetFlix in the mail. And start looking someone new for the net…
    I really don’t need Con Crap

  6. John Larrimore

    Comcast is not interested in providing a service. They are interested in profit. There are so many ways to improve the Customer experience and they are simply not interested. This inefficiency alienates people. That is why people hate Comcast. I wouldn’t mind paying for a service if it was simple to get help when needed. With Comcast this is simply not the case. You are required to go through 5 people to get to the person that can fix their( Comcast’s) issue.

  7. Gerald

    Roberts, commands his manager’s to increase turnover sales, and upgrades. From the customer’s they already have. They do this by corrupting customer’s computers, with out right slow down speeds, and unwanted spam e-mails. The inside so called Tech’s do this. Then an outside sales man, would call the troubled customer, and upgrade to insurance, and bundle packages. This is an invasion of privacy one, and stealing. People know what they want. They do not need to spend hours talking to a Tech, or salesman. Roberts, is a billionaire. But his greed, like other CEOs, is getting out of control. When is enough money, enough money?

  8. James Schopf

    I pay Comcast to access the internet, if services like netflix, amazon, and other services aren’t there then I have no reason to pay Comcast for the internet service.

    This is has the stink of biting the hand that feeds you all over it.

  9. I will just continue to hope that Google Fiber will make it to my area, and then dump comcast completely….keeping my fingers crossed.

  10. Wayne Montgomery

    I still think we are missing the point …comcast is building a monopoly ? and as gov.broke up at&t years ago they should not let this happen …i live in a town that has two internet connections…time warner and at&t my bill runs 65.00 a month and started at 3400 a month just two years ago…..corporations will have to much control …over something that people come to rely on ….i say don’t allow this merger in the first place…..

  11. Joe Dirt

    Lets all just cancel our cable/internet and see how long they all last. Before you know it, Netflix and Comcast will merge in some backdoor handshake political deal to keep screwing us. The only way to fight back is gang up on them.

  12. Ahriman

    Roberts and his ilk are merely greedy bastards that want to squeeze the straw even harder to get more dividends for their shareholders. They have no interest whatsoever in providing service to customers that is worth what they extort from them. THIS SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.

  13. YourFace

    Roberts made it very clear that Comcast wants to be “the best pipe.” The thing is the only good pipe is an open one that is not obstructed by anything. When you decide that you are going to obstruct flow if people do not pay you more money, which is what “fast” lanes for internet are, just the same old internet we have had for years that is unobstructed, you are going from having a good pipe to extorting people to use that same good pipe. When an “organization” does this at a grocery store and makes them pay “insurance” money or their store will get smashed up it is a crime so how is it legal for the isps to smash up the connections to the internet unless they are paid… Comcast and their kin are all criminal scum! Bring internet connections under title2!

  14. The post man is ALREADY BEING PAID by the customer.

    We are already PAYING for our internet connection speeds. They want to be paid twice is what it is.

    The FCC needs to put these damn companies in their place.

    If I order a product for delivery, I pay for delivery, you don’t see UPS then charging MORE from the company if they happen to ship more boxes to more customers, the cost of shipping is the same.

  15. Amanda Feguson

    So long internet it was fun while it lasted. The government will step in if we all stop paying for internet and make it a title 2 which means no business has control over the internet but instead is nationally owned by every citizen just like the roads and the electric lines

  16. Yes, Netflix pays hundreds of millions dollars to (postmaster) mail DVD to its customers… But, Netflix customers certainly does not pay additional postage to postmaster to get their DVD delivered to their house.
    Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wants both its customers and Netflix to pay for same delivery twice over.