Comcast wants to control 35% of the broadband internet service in the country. Netflix and The Discovery Channel want sweeter deals. The FCC wants faster speeds and more access. And in New York City, where a third of residents have no Internet at all, politicians want Comcast to pay for broadband in public housing and community centers.
"Should these two cable giants merge, it is essential that New Yorkers have the customer protections and digital services they need,” Councilmember Ben Kallos said in a statement. Kallos and more than a dozen other state and local officials wrote a letter to the New York State Public Service Commission today, asking them not to allow Comcast to merge with Time Warner in our market (and pick up 2.5 million customers in the process) unless they provide for universal broadband, "improvements infrastructure, transparency, and customer service," and a guaranteed commitment to Net Neutrality.
“This merger is only in the public interest if it greatly expands and does not diminish the opportunities our digital city has to offer," Kallos said.
California is the only other state that has yet to sign off. The FCC is still weighing the deal; its chairman, Tom Wheeler, pointed out earlier this month that "there is an inverse relationship between competition and broadband speed," and that three quarters of the country "have no competitive choice at 25 Mbps. That includes almost 20 percent who have no option at all at those speeds!"
Responding to Netflix and Discovery's self-interested demands for higher carriage fees and a waiver of interconnection charges, Comcast seems to have forgotten that they are the largest broadcasting and cable conglomerate in the world. "The Commission should forcefully reject these extortionate, anti-consumer efforts, which clearly have nothing to do with the public Internet," they wrote to the FCC.
You know what does have to do with "the public internet?" Giving the public free access to the internet.
Asked by the Times about New York's demands, a Comcast spokesperson dodged the question, and said it would keep on charging low-income families $10/month for their service.
“We believe we have successfully demonstrated the benefits our investment will bring to residential and commercial customers across New York."