Attention Comcast customers! You are in a great position to test out the predictions which have been made about the Republican tax bill that recently went into effect.
The Congressional Republicans who rushed the bill through insisted that its trickle-down tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations would create jobs. Lots of jobs! In the weeks following the bill’s passage, Sen. Rob Portman seemed to show up every time an Ohio business made a sale or hired a worker, ready to claim credit for it.
And you have to admire his chutzpah, since virtually no economist, policy analyst or even corporate leader thinks this tax bill will do much to the unemployment rate. In fact, unemployment is already low and can’t fall much lower. In our region, the employment problem isn’t that there aren’t enough jobs. Rather, if you talk to employers you quickly hear that they have jobs which go begging for lack of qualified workers. It isn’t clear how tax cuts for the wealthy will solve that problem.
Still, maybe the tax cuts really will make life better for regular folks and not just for billionaires, and this is where you Comcast customers come in.
Recently, Comcast announced the Trump tax bonanza gave the company a $12.7 billion windfall. Comcast is already the largest cable TV company in the world. And it is also the nation’s largest home internet service provider, the third largest phone company, and since 2011 has owned NBC/Universal as well.
In other words, Comcast is the very definition of a corporate behemoth that has a direct impact on the lives of tens of millions of us every day.
And it is one of the most reviled companies, too. According to one survey, Comcast was the single most hated company in the country. Comcast service is famously unreliable. Its customer service is notoriously poor. The price you pay for the same package varies dramatically from place to place. And it makes it as hard as it can for you to cancel.
More importantly, Comcast isn’t interested in giving its customers faster, more reliable service, and thanks to its power in the market, U.S. internet speeds are pitifully slow. South Korean internet runs at twice the average speeds you get here. Actually, our internet speeds don’t even keep up with Latvia. We have Comcast to thank for that.
This $12.7 billion that just dropped in Comcast’s lap is really the second lucrative goody it has gotten from Donald Trump and the Republican Congress. No company lobbied harder to eliminate net neutrality than Comcast did, and for good reason. Before net neutrality was imposed, Comcast was accused repeatedly of making it hard for its customers to access certain sites – throttling them – like Netflix. In 2013 Netflix paid what amounted to extortion money to Comcast so that viewers could watch its content.
Clearly a company like this deserved a $12.7 billion give-back from the rest of us. So here’s the test we can run with Comcast customers: Will Comcast use that $12.7 billion gift from the GOP to increase your internet speed? Or even improve your service so that it doesn’t konk out as often? Will it spend those billions to hire more customer service people and put more repair vans on the road so that your service window isn’t always 10 a.m. to never?
Or will Comcast cash its check, inflate its earnings report, reward shareholders, and give bonuses to the executives and lobbyists who worked so hard to get that big cash-back bonus in the first place?
Steven Conn teaches history at Miami University and is a regular contributor.