CAP COMCAST: Comcast is holding one of its most important events of the year near the epicenter of its operations- its Annual Meeting of Shareholders at the Kimmel Center. While they vote on how to get richer, we, the people of Philadelphia and frustrated cable and internet customers, will cast our own votes on the wisdom of this merger in the presence of the media- Philadelphia is in the national spotlight: Last week, the Washington Post covered how Comcast’s discount services for low-income folks just don’t make the grade. More than 4,000 Philadelphians have signed our petitions asking Comcast to pay their fair share, and this week, Philadelphians and national groups will convene outside Comcast’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday to protest Comcast’s plan to merge with Time Warner Cable and expand its record of bad service nationwide. Communities in Philadelphia and around the country have had it with Comcast’s constant rate increases, threats of data caps, bad service, and little choice.2 Now, Comcast wants to buy Time Warner Cable, which would combine the country’s first and second largest cable and Internet companies—creating a single giant media monopoly. This means more expensive service, far less competition, and fewer outlets for alternative and independent viewpoints in our communities. There will be lots of national attention on the shareholders’ vote on Wednesday. If lots of people turn out we will send a strong message to Comcast shareholders, politicians, and press that whatever shareholders vote for inside—real Philadelphians and national communities have strong reasons to vote NO on this merger. MORE
Here are all the details:
What: The People Vote: Stop the Comcast Mega-Merger
When: Wednesday, May 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Where: The Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street (southwest corner of Broad and Spruce)
RSVP: Click here to RSVP!
WASHINGTON POST: As Comcast tries to win over regulators reviewing its controversial merger with Time Warner Cable, its well-honed lobbying campaign often highlights a company program offering Internet to low-income families. […] Comcast says it has enrolled 300,000 families across the country in three years, a figure critics say is low considering that 2.6 million households are eligible. Many consumers say they have been denied access to the service because it’s only available to new Comcast customers. Others were rejected because of old unpaid bills — as little as $53 from a decade ago. And those who do get the program say it’s often too slow. The speed is 5 megabits per second, enough for basic Internet use but often frustrating for those who try to stream videos or download big files.
Shaping how regulators view Internet Essentials is critical for Comcast. As it tries to win over regulators at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, the cable company is trying to defuse what analysts view as the biggest threat against the deal: a determination by the FCC that a merger would be against “the public interest,” an ill-defined standard that leaves a lot to the judgment of the agency’s commissioners. Internet Essentials is a way for Comcast to show a more civic-minded side, countering the company’s mixed reputation among consumers.
The proposed merger with Time Warner Cable has alarmed consumer advocates because it would combine the country’s top two cable and Internet service providers, putting Comcast in control of 40 percent of the high-speed Internet market and 30 percent of cable TV. Comcast and Time Warner Cable consistently rank at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys. Critics say Comcast is using the Internet Essentials program to brighten its public image and paper over deeper problems posed to consumers by the deal. In Philadelphia, where the company is based and where it arguably has the most control over the program’s outcome, participation rates are especially low.
If any place should be a success story for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, it’s Philadelphia. It has the highest poverty rate of any big city in the nation. Comcast’s corporate headquarters are housed in the city’s tallest skyscraper; the company plans to construct an even taller 59-story office tower in 2017. Comcast executives have deep ties to the city’s political leaders and community organizations. Cohen served as chief of staff to former mayor Ed Rendell. The firm has been a major contributor to community groups and has in return enjoyed tax breaks and grants for its skyscrapers.
In Philadelphia, the adoption of Internet Essentials is about 9 percent of eligible families, compared with the national average of 12 percent. At the city’s consumer affairs office, officials say residents often call to complain about the Comcast program, saying they have been rejected because of small past bills. Current customers are also often frustrated they can’t switch to the lower-cost program. Ads for Internet Essentials are hard to come by in Philadelphia. But in the nation’s capital, Comcast has been widely promoting the program since announcing in February that it wanted to purchase Time Warner Cable for a blockbuster price of $45 billion. Two months after the merger was announced, Comcast said it would extend the life of the program indefinitely, beyond the initial three-year trial.
In a congressional hearing this week, Cohen told lawmakers that the merger would allow Comcast to offer the Internet Essentials program to Time Warner Cable’s millions of subscribers. Federal officials have also touted the program, noting that Comcast is the only corporation to offer a discounted service that could help expand the adoption of broadband across the nation. Internet Essentials was conceived expressly to win goodwill in Washington. It began three years ago as part of an offering to the FCC as the agency considered another big and controversial merger by Comcast — this one to NBC Universal for $31 billion. MORE