Al Franken Goes After Comcast

Comcast Today: Says the cable giant has history of broken promises.

Al Franken is going after Comcast.

Yes, that’s Sen. Al Franken to you, and if he’s still best remembered as a comedian, you shouldn’t underestimate him: He’s by all accounts a thoughtful and hard-working politician. And he’s concerned about Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner cable.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said Comcast had failed to live up to a long list of promises made when its 2011 agreement to acquire NBC Universal won U.S. approval.

Franken complained that Comcast had interfered in 2007 with BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer network that Comcast viewed as a competitor to its cable offerings.

Franken also cited a study by the Free Press consumer advocacy group, which found Comcast had failed to live up to promises to increase local news and programming. “The FCC should scrutinize whether these allegations have merit,” Franken wrote.

He also questioned whether Comcast had lived up to promises to provide reasonably priced broadband to customers who did not take cable.

The Wrap adds: “I am concerned that the proposed acquisition could result in higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse service for consumers,” Franken wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. “To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion.”

Here’s how incestuous the whole media business is though. Franken became known to the American public thanks to his stint as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live. SNL is, of course, a show on NBC. NBC is owned, these days but not during Franken’s tenure, by Comcast. There’s no playing Six Degrees of Separation with the company.

Other Comcastic headlines:

• David Trainer is bearish on Comcast stock, says Seeking Alpha: “Comcast is in the Danger Zone this week. The cable giant’s reign of power and profit growth is coming to an end. The stock is priced as if the good-old days will continue and profits will continue to grow at a higher rate than I believe possible. The proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is nothing more than a last ditch effort to consolidate market share and will hurt, rather than help, shareholders.”

US News & World Report cautions against panic on the Comcast-Netflix deal: “The fears are misplaced. The Internet is changing, as it was always meant to. That’s the genius of its design. But no, Netflix’s decision to send video directly to Comcast, instead of routing it through other network intermediaries first, sets no precedent. Other firms like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have been linking directly to broadband networks for years. So have content delivery networks such as Akamai, Limelight and EdgeCast, which store videos, banner ads and other content closer to end users.”

And from Comcast’s public relations department:

HOW THE X1 PLATFORM IS CHANGING THE GAME FOR TELEVISION: Starting Feb. 4, all new customers will receive the updated X1 interface and existing users will have the option to migrate to the new interface. Then in March, all users will be switched automatically. The next-generation of X1’s operating system … will include a new customizable dashboard and unite multi-platform content in an entirely personalized way; one that learns preferences and becomes smarter over time. Users will also quickly notice a more aesthetically pleasing guide, with improved readability and an intuitive navigation.