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Comcast could deliver its new Xfinity X1 TV independent of its Internet service. But it won't

Michael Brown | Nov. 14, 2014
Comcast assembled its top brass in San Francisco Wednesday to demonstrate its new Xfinity X1 TV platform to a gaggle of tech reporters. Xfinity X1 is an entirely cloud-based system with the potential to eliminate the cable box, which Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts admitted becomes "obsolete as soon as we put it in your house."

"Wireless companies are all over the country," Roberts said. "Then the cloud comes along, and Amazon, Google, Apple, Verizon — you name it. All 'click' and they get it [access to a nationwide market]. And we're still chugging along with our 7 or 10 thousand franchises."

Poor little Comcast. All those regulatory shackles limited its 2013 revenue to a measly $16.9 billion.

Roberts also insisted that acquiring Time Warner wouldn't change the competitive landscape one iota. "The product you just saw demonstrated so wonderfully by our team is really hard and real expensive and different than plain-old cable. But it's not available in New York and LA — any of the product you just saw [because those are Time Warner cable territories]."

In reality, Comcast doesn't need franchises anywhere to offer their new TV platform. If Infinity X1 truly is a cloud service, Comcast could deliver it over any ISP's pipes — just like Google, Amazon, Netflix, and countless other companies deliver their services over Comcast's pipes.

But Comcast won't do that because it would mean giving up the opportunity to also sell Internet, phone, smart-home services, and who knows what else down the road to those same customers. Comcast doesn't really care about cable-TV franchises; it cares about controlling the Internet's infrastructure.

"Competition has spurred innovation more than regulation has," Roberts said.

True. But without regulation, there would be no competition.


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