Did Comcast Ghostwrite Politicians’ Letters of Support?

A report at The Verge’s website today suggests Comcast has been ghostwriting letters of support that politicians have filed to back the company’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

On August 21st, 2014, Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, Georgia, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing emphatic support for Comcast’s controversial effort to merge with Time Warner Cable. Not only did the mayor’s letter express personal excitement for the gargantuan deal — which critics say will create a monopoly that will harm millions of consumers — but it also claimed that the entire town of Roswell adored Comcast. “When Comcast makes a promise to act, it is comforting to know that they will always follow through,” Wood’s letter explained. “This is the type of attitude that makes Roswell proud to be involved with such a company,” the letter asserts, “our residents are happy with the services it has provided and continues to provide each day.”

Yet Wood’s letter made one key omission: Neither Wood nor anyone representing Roswell’s residents wrote his letter to the FCC. Instead, a vice president of external affairs at Comcast authored the missive word for word in Mayor Wood’s voice. According to email correspondence obtained through a public records request, the Republican mayor’s office apparently added one sign-off sentence and his signature to the corporate PR document, then sent it to federal regulators on the official letterhead of Roswell, Georgia.

The report goes on to cite a number of instances where officials — including then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett — submitted letters of support for the merger, letters that barely differed in wording from information provided by Comcast.
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Cohen: Net Neutrality Could Scuttle Time Warner Merger

Comcast is the focus of a big Page One story today in the Wall Street Journal, focusing on the company’s power in Washington, net neutrality, and the proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. It mostly covered well-worn ground, but we learned a few things, too. Three things that we learned:

President Obama’s favored net neutrality rules could scuttle the merger. The FCC is expected to vote in February whether or not to regulate Internet providers like a utility, as the president supports but Comcast opposes. If the FCC proceeds, Comcast Vice President David Cohen said Comcast will  “see what the order is and to then make a judgment about whether it is sufficiently bad for the broadband business that it would cause us not to go through with the transaction, or whether we’d go through with the transaction and simply have to be more conservative in our investment plans.”
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Comcast No Longer Tech Industry’s Biggest Spender on Lobbying

Comcast is no longer the tech industry’s biggest spender on lobbying. That distinction now belongs to Google. Comcast is in second place — by a mere $30,000.

Consumer Watchdog, which unveiled its annual report on the industry’s lobbying expenditures on Wednesday, said Comcast spent $16.8 million on lobbying in 2014. (That number is actually  a 10 percent decrease from $18.71 million in 2013.) Google, meanwhile, spent $16.83 million on lobbying during the year.

That’s somewhat surprising: After all, Comcast spent most of 2014 trying to persuade state and federal officials to approve its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. (That company spent $7.83 million in 2014, a 6 percent decrease from $8.29 million in 2013.) Time magazine reported in April that the company had as many as 76 lobbyists from a wide array of firms working to get federal approval for the merger.

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Morning Headlines: Comcast Announces It Will Keep Its New Tower For Itself

comcast-innovation-and-technology-center-dusk-940

Have you seen the interior renderings of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center? Pretty swanky stuff, right? Well, it seems some tenants that had been slated to move into the tower once it was done will only have the renderings to go on just like the rest of us.

The Philadelphia Business Journal‘s Natalie Kostelni reports Comcast has announced it will take up the entire office portion of the building, which means only the cable bigwig and the 222-room Four Seasons Hotel will be its sole occupants:

David L. Cohen, executive vice president of the Philadelphia cable company, said Comcast has expanded the amount of space it will occupy and will take all of the building’s 1.28 million square feet of office space.

It’s a move to accommodate Comcast’s rapidly growing pool of employees. Cohen said they don’t need a “third tower” (psh, why not?) but they do need the space:

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Comcast to Stream Super Bowl Online for Free

This is why big giant events like the Super Bowl mean so much to the networks that air them — and the companies that own the networks.

This year’s Super Bowl will basically be an ad for Comcast’s Xfinity cable and Internet services — the company is providing the game (and surrounding program) online for free, so that even cord-cutters on their laptops can take part in the programming smorgasboard.

Comcast is dubbing the whole thing “Super Stream Sunday.” “Consumers will be able to stream 11 continuous hours of NBC content on Super Bowl Sunday,” the company said in an announcement. “NBC live stream programming will include: Super Bowl XLIX; Super Bowl XLIX halftime show starring Katy Perry; Super Bowl XLIX pre-and-post-game shows; and the midseason debut of The Blacklist.
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Obama Wants to Help Create Comcast’s Competitors

If Comcast really is militantly left-wing, why on earth is President Obama making life so hard for the company?

He already came out in favor of a net neutrality plan Comcast opposes. Now he’s explicitly calling for the creation of more broadband Internet service providers — essentially, a bunch of competitors for the Philadelphia-based company.

Gizmodo calls it “Obama’s Plan to Loosen Comcast’s Stranglehold on Your Internet”, and reports:

The first step, as outlined in a new White House report, is to get rid of state laws that favour the big broadband players, and stifle new competition:

“19 states currently have barriers in place limiting community broadband and protecting incumbent providers from competition. President Obama believes that there should be a level playing field for community-based solutions and is announcing today a series of steps that the Administration will be taking to foster consumer and community choice.”

The first step will be the Administration filing a letter with the FCC asking it to address these laws — something the FCC is already looking at doing. Furthermore, though, the report calls on the federal government to remove “all unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and [the President] is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council of over a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding up broadband deployment and promoting adoptions for our citizens.”

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Conservatives Launch Attack on Comcast

Is Comcast America’s “most-powerful and militant left-wing force?”

Pennsylvanians who watched Comcast’s David Cohen raise money for Gov. Tom Corbett might not think so, but Comcast’s ownership of MSNBC has put the company squarely in the sights of a group calling itself the “Conservative War Chest.”

And that group has just released an ad describing Comcast in the terms we used above — and it’s doing it as the FCC enters the stretch run of completing its review of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger.

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Opposition to Comcast Merger Still Grows

The members of the "Stop Mega Comcast Coalition." Graphic courtesy of Consumerist.

The members of the “Stop Mega Comcast Coalition.” Graphic courtesy of Consumerist.

The Federal Communications Commission may be in the home stretch of reviewing Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, but formal opposition to the deal keeps growing.

Consumerist reports that the “Stop Mega Comcast Coalition” has grown from 12 to 27 members in recent weeks. The group includes Comcast competitors like Dish, as well as the Writers Guild of America — worried that its members might find fewer outlets to pitch their wares — and strange bedfellows like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze linking up with Common Cause in opposition to the merger.

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All Comcast Eyes on New York

Comcast-TodayIt looks like New York is going to drive a tough bargain if Comcast wants that state’s approval to complete a merger with Time Warner Cable.

We knew that already, but a Sunday editorial in the New York Daily News is urging state regulators there to drive an even harder bargain, noting that other capitals of world commerce — including Seoul, Hong Kong, and even Latvia — have better Internet speeds than what is typically available in New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should demand better, the paper says.

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