US consumers oppose Comcast/TWC merger

Opponents of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger have submitted just under 600,000 public comments to the Federal Communications Commission in recent months urging it to reject the proposed deal. The announcement was made just days before the FCC’s December 23rd deadline for submitting reply comments on the merger.

The comments calling on the FCC to reject the merger were gathered and submitted over the last few months by Common Cause, Consumers Union, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project, Presente, and The Blaze.Thousands of additional comments opposing the merger have been submitted by other organisations, businesses, and individuals.

“Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to this disastrous merger,” said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy division for Consumer Reports.“They know that combining two companies with terrible track records for providing lousy service at high prices will make an already bad situation worse. We need more competition to give consumers real choices, not an even bigger Comcast that will dominate the market and be even less responsive to its customers’ needs.”

A Consumer Reports poll released in June found that just 11 per cent of the public supports the merger, 56 per cent oppose, while 32 per cent had no opinion. Large majorities agree that the deal will hurt consumers by leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and reduced incentives to provide good customer service.

“What’s obvious to so many Americans should become obvious to the FCC as well: There isn’t one single benefit to this merger,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “A bigger Comcast would use its monopoly power to protect its own offerings at the expense of the online innovations sought by millions of Internet users nationwide. The merger would increase Comcast’s incentives to harm development of the streaming video market, violate Net Neutrality and-price gouge consumers. Comcast has done all of these things in the past. Handing it control of more of our media will only make matters worse.”

The merger would combine two of the worst-rated pay TV and internet providers in the country into a media giant that would dominate the market. Comcast would become a national gatekeeper for the Internet with control over nearly half of the truly high-speed residential broadband market and the authority to decide who could pass through the gate, and on what terms.

In addition, Comcast would control almost 60 per cent of the country’s cable television customers.Comcast could dictate what programmes get carried not only in its markets but across the country.By owning valuable programming through its merger with NBC Universal and its interests in regional sports networks and other content, Comcast already has the ability and incentive to discriminate against other pay TV providers. The merger would increase Comcast’s power to deny its pay-TV rivals access to programming or raise licensing fees to carry those programs.

“As things stand now, the incentives for cable companies to offer affordable prices and adequate customer service are woefully insufficient. This merger would entrench Comcast’s monopoly power and make things worse for the public, as Comcast would gain even greater control over pricing, service quality, and how people are able to express themselves online” said David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. “That’s why hundreds of thousands have called on the FCC to protect consumers by rejecting this toxic deal.”

“Comcast has arrogantly dismissed the concerns of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who believe in the importance of diverse voices in media responsive to the needs of local communities,” said Todd O’Boyle, Director of Media and Democracy for Common Cause.“The FCC has a duty to protect the public interest when it considers big media mergers like this one. It should do its job and reject this merger forthwith.”

Comcast has tried to tout the benefits of the merger, including its Internet Essentials program, a discount Internet service for low income families. But only a small fraction of those families have been enrolled in the programme.

“We’ve talked with low-income people across Philadelphia about Comcast, mostly from communities of colour, and most have never heard of Internet Essentials. Those who actually tried to apply for the program weren’t able to overcome the many barriers to entry,” said Jeff Rousset, a lead organizer with Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, Comcast’s hometown. “Comcast’s top priority is profits, not poor people. The best way to bridge the digital divide is not to depend on charitable contributions from a media monopoly, it’s to increase competition, including municipal broadband options.”

“The proposed Comcast merger is the most dangerous merger Latinos have ever faced,” said Arutro Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org.“The deal’s resulting company would become the cable source for 91 per cent of Latinos — a disaster. Our communities cannot afford Comcast as the gatekeeper to information and success and over 10,000 of our members have demanded that the Federal Communications Commission stop the merger.”

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