Politicians, Competitors Line Up Against Comcast Merger

Comcast Today: The good news for Comcast? Public comment period is over.


A major step in the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger is over. The Federal Communications Commission’s public comment period on the merger ended Monday with 65,000 comments filed, the Inquirer reports — many of them flooding in at nearly the last minute before Monday’s deadline.

It appears a lot of the late-arriving commentary was similar to the earlier stuff: Negative. A roundup of the comment headlines:

Franken warns merger would give Comcast ‘unprecedented’ power: Comcast’s proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable would give the company “unprecedented” power, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) warned the Federal Communications Commission on Monday. Franken, who is up for re-election this year, told the FCC in a formal comment that the combination of the country’s two largest cable companies “would position Comcast as a veritable gatekeeper over vast swaths of the nation’s telecommunications industry, resulting in higher prices, fewer choices, and worse service for consumers in Minnesota and across the country.” “The proposed acquisition also would threaten innovation and economic activity on the Internet, and it would jeopardize the free flow of information and ideas on which our democracy depends,” he added in his 40-page filing. “Because the proposed acquisition does not advance the public interest — but, rather, is inimical to it — it must be rejected.” (The Hill)

Los Angeles Mayor: FCC Should Consider Dodgers Dispute in Comcast Merger Review: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says that the FCC’s review of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger should examine “real world problems like the Dodgers dispute,” in which more than 60% of the city’s residents do not have access to watch the hometown team’s games. Last year, TW Cable bought exclusive rights to the Dodgers that included the launch of a new regional sports network, SportsNet LA. But much of the market has been left without any availability of the channel as distributors like DirecTV have balked. They say that the price TW Cable is asking is too high as it tries to cover the cost it paid for the rights, reportedly $8 billion. (Variety)

Dish Network petitions FCC to block Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger: Dish Network has warned of irreparable harm to competition and consumers alike if US regulators allow the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable goes ahead. On Monday, Dish network revealed the petition, saying that if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows the merger to go forward, the deal could “significantly damage competitive development of over-the-top (OTT) video — services such as Netflix and Hulu — and limit consumer access to online video programming.” At the forefront, the firm says “the merger would permit and motivate the combined company to hurt or destroy online video rivals through its control over the broadband pipe, passing an estimated two thirds of US households.” (ZDNet)

65 Groups Urge the FCC to Reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger:  Sixty-five organizations representing consumers, content producers, and social justice and democracy-reform advocates called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today to reject the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.  The FCC is currently reviewing the deal to determine whether it serves the public interest. In a letter to the FCC, the groups warned that the merger would give Comcast “unprecedented gatekeeper control” over the nation’s telecommunications and media landscape and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for broadband and cable customers.  The merger would give Comcast too much control over the future of the Internet and communications infrastructure and undermine the diversity of ownership and content in media, according to the groups.  (PR Newswire)

And, well, you get the idea. Is anybody for this merger? Uh, yes:

Comcast exec hails ‘pro-consumer’ merger: In a blog post on Monday — the final day for the first batch of public comments on the proposal at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote that the deal “is pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and strongly in the public interest.” “This transaction will allow us to bring more investment and technology and new services – such as faster Internet speeds, a more reliable and more secure network, net neutrality protection, low-cost Internet access, and programming diversity – to more American homes and businesses,” he added. (The Hill)

In other Comcastic headlines, tech sites are still chasing down examples of what they think is the company’s subpar customer service….

Confused Comcast rep thinks Steam download is a virus: A Comcast subscriber who wanted to know why his Internet service disconnected when trying to use Steam was offered a bizarre explanation by a customer service representative who had apparently never heard of the popular video game distribution software. “It’s not a virus because over 50 million people use it,” the customer responded. In this case, the rep may have been working from an offshore call center and seemed to lack basic knowledge about the kinds of applications customers use with Comcast service. We asked Comcast what training it provides these workers but did not receive an answer. Even a more competent employee may not have been able to provide anything beyond scheduling an in-person appointment with a technician, but companies like Comcast do no favors to themselves when they hire customer service reps who cannot converse intelligently with callers. (Ars Technica)

Comcast Locks Customers Out Of Accounts, Has Been “Working On It” Since 2012: Last month, we shared with you the sad story of Karen, who somehow got locked out of her Comcast account. This would have been easier to deal with if Comcast believed Karen when she described the problem, but they didn’t. Now more customers are reporting the same problem: they’re locked out of their accounts, and Comcast’s solutions range from “delete your browser cookies” to “clear your browser cache.” Karen followed the company’s instructions, but it was clear that she didn’t just need to erase her browser cookies. Consumerist had to step in and restore her access to her account management and e-mail accounts. Complaints about this issue date back to 2012 on Comcast’s support message boards, so it’s nothing new. Worse, customers who called in to complain about their account issues would wait on hold for almost ten minutes, then get disconnected. (Consumerist)