All Comcast Eyes on New York

Comcast Today: Will the state drive a hard bargain for merger approval?

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.

Strengthening his leverage is a new law — pushed through at Cuomo’s behest — that requires Comcast to prove that the takeover is in the best interests of the state before winning approval from the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

The commission staff has recommended rejecting the deal, concluding that the likely downsides, such as the risk of higher fees and lost jobs, outweigh Comcast’s vague and unenforceable promises of improved service.

The staff called for the company to commit to $300 million in spending aimed at improving customer service, boosting discounts for low-income users and investing $50 million to expand and upgrade a high-speed broadband network.

Given the huge stakes for New York’s global competitiveness, those demands are much too small.

The New York Public Service Commission is expected to make a final determination on the matter by January 22nd, with a final order to come no later than January 27th. The state’s approval is considered crucial to the merger. Between that and the FCC’s planned vote on net neutrality in February, the immediate future of Comcast may become a lot more clear in coming weeks.

One more Comcastic headline:

Is Comcast Done Flirting With The Idea of Selling Electricity? Early in 2014 I noted that Comcast was toying with the idea of getting into the electricity business in their home state of Pennsylvania. That effort has went live in March of 2014, with Comcast teaming up with a unit of NRG Energy to effectively bundle electricity with Comcast’s suite of phone, cable, broadband, and home security services. The program, dubbed Energy Rewards, offered users who signed up for Comcast’s new energy services prepaid Visa cards and three free months of HBO, Showtime or Starz. … “This was a pilot program,” Comcast tells me. “At this time, we’ve mutually agreed with NRG to no longer market Energy Rewards to existing Comcast customers.” Asked if Comcast is still contemplating the energy business, I was told “we are evaluating opportunities, but (have) nothing to report now.” The company says that Independence Energy Group (IEG) will continue to serve as the retail energy supplier for customers that signed up for Energy Rewards. (DSLReports.com)

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