Public to FCC: Stop the Merger

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Free Press

Public to FCC: Stop the Merger

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Giant companies like Comcast can cause all kinds of trouble. So when they try to get even bigger, you know there’s more trouble coming. This week, tens of thousands of people — along with dozens of public interest organizations, media companies and competitive telecom providers — spoke out against the kind of trouble we can expect if Comcast is allowed to merge with Time Warner Cable.

In a series of comments, letters and petitions, they urged the two agencies in charge of reviewing the deal to reject it outright, rather than allowing this disastrous combination of the country’s two largest cable and high-speed broadband providers.

Real people’s voices are front and center in this debate, as they should be at the FCC — the agency charged with protecting the public interest in our communications system. And people have been loud and clear about their opposition to Comcast’s takeover plans. Free Press member Ellen from Alaska wrote, “Please do not allow this merger. It is a threat to democracy to allow any form of monopoly. Please encourage free speech and the flow of ideas and information. That makes us stronger as individuals and as a nation.”

Jeremy from Louisiana adds, “I have dealt with both of these companies before as a customer. They care nothing for customer service, or customer satisfaction. Their only concern is the almighty dollar, and how to milk more money from their customers… They will stomp net neutrality into the ground the second the green light is given to them, and this cannot be allowed to happen ...” You can read more comments here.

In total, Free Press submitted more than 100,000 petitions and comments opposing the merger. Comments from our members came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Overall, more than half a million people have taken action against the merger and more than 75,000 individual comments have been filed at the FCC.

Sixty-five organizations, representing millions of constituents, content producers, social justice advocates and political reformers, said the FCC must reject this deal. In a letter filed at the agency on Monday, the groups argued that a deal of this size and scope would put unprecedented control into one bad company’s hands. Customers would face higher prices and fewer choices, with one company exercising too much control over the future of the Internet and our communications infrastructure. The letter called out Comcast for its dubious support of low-cost broadband for low-income communities. And it condemned the company’s doublespeak on Net Neutrality — claiming to support the principle while adhering to a toothless and temporary set of merger conditions.

Many public interest policy experts and media companies filed petitions to deny the merger at the FCC as well. Everyone from the Greenlining Institute to Glenn Beck’s production company "The Blaze" flooded the FCC docket with oppositions to the deal.

Free Press’ own policy shop weighed in with a definitive account of how the merger fails both the public interest and the antitrust test at the FCC and DoJ.

Comcast’s claims about the merger’s supposed benefits are self-serving and simply untrue. Here’s the real story, as laid out in our own filing. 

  • This merger would create a company with even more power over communications than the Ma Bell monopoly of old. Comcast combined with Time Warner Cable would control a huge swath of the country’s advanced broadband subscribers. And this giant company would be the only option for truly high speed Internet access available to tens of millions of Americans.
  • These high-speed services, and the kind of advanced broadband speeds offered by cable companies, are in a different league than DSL. The two platforms no longer really compete with each other.
  • Streaming video drives the demand for these advanced broadband services and speeds. That business is growing for Comcast, right along with the demand for streaming video — and yet Comcast goes out of its way to cripple streaming video alternatives because cable companies want to protect their legacy pay-TV business.
  • This merger would increase Comcast’s incentives and its ability to interfere with online content and services, creating a cable colossus with too much gatekeeper power over our communications infrastructure and a vested interest in stifling Internet innovation.

This merger wouldn’t help cable consumers and broadband competition. It would kill off innovation, raise prices, and give Comcast a dangerous level of control over our country’s most crucial communications channels.

On Monday, thousands of people came forward to challenge Comcast’s misinformation. They’ll continue making that case over the coming weeks and months, as antitrust authorities and public interest watchdogs begin to review the deal in earnest.

The FCC and the Justice Department must take notice of the problems with this merger and the broad opposition to it. They can’t allow one company to dominate the most critical pathway for the free flow of information and ideas. They have to block this deal.

Mary Alice Crim

Mary Alice Crim is the engagement and events director for the media reform group Free Press.

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