There is nothing — absolutely nothing — that politicians enjoy more than bragging about everything they’re doing for their constituents. Of course, most of the time there’s a huge difference between the promises and the reality, but in this case we truly hope the politicians can deliver.
Here’s the quick background: Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV conglomerate, wants to merge with Time Warner, the nation’s second largest cable TV conglomerate. Many people oppose the merger on the grounds that it will give the combined entity near-monopoly power over programming and pricing in too much of the country.
In similar past cases, the merging companies have been willing to make a wide range of concessions in order to get their mergers and acquisitions approved by various government entities. In fact, Comcast is no stranger to such settlements because it agreed to a series of concessions back in 2010 when it acquired NBC, the National Broadcasting Company. One of those concessions was the creation of Internet Essentials (for more info, click here), a program that provides high-speed internet access to needy Americans for just $9.95 per month, plus low-cost computers and free digital literacy training.
And that brings us to the present and the demands of the New York politicians.
According to the NY Times, a group of Big Apple political leaders and activists, including public advocate Letitia James, want Comcast to provide free broadband in the city’s public housing projects and to continue Internet Essentials.
consumerist.com said, “While New York City might be the center of finance and commerce in the U.S., about 1/3 of households don’t have an Internet connection, highlighting the huge ‘digital divide’ between the city’s wealthy residents and those who can’t afford broadband service.”
What does James want from Comcast and Time Warner?
“In addition to the free service for public housing,” consumerist.com continued, “the group wants gratis access at shelters for the city’s homeless and its victims of domestic violence.”
And while the politicians and activists have Comcast’s ear, they demanded more — free WiFi in city parks, and a commitment to providing faster internet speeds.
“We need our city to remain competitive in the 21st century,” James observed.
Turns out James and friends believe they can influence the New York state Public Service Commission and they’ve already submitted their demands to that regulatory body.
Of course, Comcast isn’t without friends in high places, either, and it’s assumed that it “would probably win in a legal battle with the Commission”. But the New York politicians and activists hope they can cause an expensive delay that will convince Comcast to offer up some of the concessions they’ve proposed.
Of course, we are happy to throw our support 100% behind the efforts of New York City’s politicians and activists. Comcast has done a great job with Internet Essentials and has delivered low cost internet access to more than a million low-income Americans. But we, too, feel the program should be extended and expanded so that millions more can be helped.
Consumers Union did its bit to block the merger by running this full-page ad that points out in a clever, creative way some of the problems that could come about if the Comcast/Time Warner merger goes through.