Most of the opposition to Comcast's Time Warner Cable acquisition have come from the usual "progressive voices" and consumer groups, though being in favor of a healthy Internet and against ISP-written laws and heavy-handed usage caps really shouldn't be a "partisan issue." Still, shaking up this paradigm this week is the news that a Conservative Super PAC named "Conservative War Chest" has launched their opposition against the merger, claiming that Comcast and NBC Universal use their news empire as a "political assault and smear machine."
Comcast has been largely partisan when it comes to campaign contributions, though the company has ramped up their donations to Democrats in recent years, and CEO Brian Roberts is an Obama golfing pal
. The fact Comcast owns MSNBC appears to be a belated discovery for some, and it's a centerpiece of the ads the group are running in opposition to the deal (see below).
"It is...important that the public sees how Comcast and NBC News are distorting the news to benefit President Obama and their liberal Democratic allies in Congress," claims the group in a press release
(pdf). "The last time Comcast needed a government favor we got Al Sharpton five nights a week. What will we get in exchange for a deal worth billions to Brian Roberts and other owners of Comcast?" asks the group.
The Conservative opposition to the group may not be a deal killer itself, though the PAC joins a growing chorus of voices that believe the Comcast deal won't be of meaningful benefit to anybody other than Comcast itself.
To try and prevent the FCC from crafting tough Title-II based net neutrality rules, loyal ISP politicians in Congress have promised a slew of bills aimed at eroding FCC authority ahead of the FCC's February 26 vote on new rules. One of the first out of the gate is courtesy of Rep. story continues..
Netflix today released their ISP streaming performance ranking for December
, which offers performance data based on the 53 million global Netflix viewers and the two billion hours of content they watch each month. There wasn't too much of a shake up in this month's ranking, with Verizon FiOS continuing to top the list after they struck an interconnection deal with Netflix last year.
As the deadline for a regulatory decision on the Comcast merger draws closer, the chorus of companies and organizations opposing the deal grows larger. Last month a Stop Mega Comcast
coalition was formed that included unlikely bedfellows such as Dish, Fairpoint, Glenn Beck's channel The Blaze and consumer advocacy groups like Public Knowledge. The group (obviously with varying motivations) has argued that a larger Comcast would harm a number of sectors including broadband, advertising, television and diversity programming. This week the group announced twelve new members
including Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports).
In addition to the usual rate hikes for hardware and programming, Comcast has recently been telling customers they'll have to start paying $10 a month to rent a modem (up from $8), unless they go and buy their own modem. User Rick
writes in to note that Comcast's latest rate hikes also include an increase in the company's "Broadcast TV fee" from $1.50 a month to $3.25 a month.
Despite promises that the company is changing its ways, Comcast can't seem to keep its name out of the press in terms of horrible customer support. The latest example making the media rounds is from a Reddit user that claims
that after getting a $50 promotional price from Comcast, his bill began to rise after three months.
As the FCC comment cycle for Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable closed today, top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen once again took to the company's blog
to insist that deal critics have it all wrong, and that the Comcast Time Warner Cable merger will only result in positive benefits for consumers and competitors alike. Comcast again cites that the company has a broad coalition of support across many organizations (you're to pretend Comcast gives most of them money to express this position).
Back in January we were the first to report
that Comcast was again doubling speeds on many of its tiers, starting first with the company's Midwest division. As noted then, upgraded Comcast users will see the company's "Performance" tier bumped from 25/5 to 50/5 Mbps, their "Blast" tier from 50/10 to 105/10 Mbps, and their Extreme 105 speeds bumped from 105/20 Mbps to 150/20 Mbps.
According to a 2003 class action lawsuit against Comcast, the cable giant's anti-competitive behavior in the Philadelphia area resulted in the company overcharging users to the tune of more than $875 million. The case has stumbled around the courts for several years now, though Comcast recently agreed to pay $50 million to settle the suit. The settlement gives roughly 800,000 current and former Comcast cable-TV subscribers in Pennsylvania $15 in credits, or Comcast services the value of which ranges from $30 to $43.90.
These services include "temporary Internet upgrades, six free pay-per-view movies, or two free months of the Movie Channel," notes the Phiadelphia Inquirer
Comcast Settlement 88281
In June of last year Comcast announced
that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot. More specifically, updated routers would now offer two signals: one being yours, and the other being a "xfinitywifi" SSID signal providing free Wi-Fi to other Comcast users in your general area.
As noted earlier today
, a new coalition of companies and consumer groups have emerged to lobby for the rejection of "Mega Comcast's" acquisition of Time Warner Cable, arguing that the deal hurts competition and innovation and will raise prices across a number of sectors, from broadband/TV. In a blog post
today, Comcast responded to the group, complaining that they're being unfairly targeted.
AT&T has had their wrist slapped by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau for not being entirely honest when it comes to the availability of the company's 45 Mbps U-Verse tier. While AT&T started offering a 45 Mbps U-Verse tier last year, as we noted at the time it's not available to all U-Verse subscribers
, depending on your loop length, the availability of an extra copper pair, or the quality of local copper.
As part of the company's attempt to shore up lagging customer service (or to at least shore up the perception of lagging customer service) Comcast today unveiled a new app that will let customers track where a technician currently is located. Waiting all day for a technician that never shows up is a large reason for the cable industry's abysmally low customer satisfaction rankings, and Comcast and their new "Customer Experience" VP Charlie Herrin hopes the new app helps to change that. story continues..
Charter board member and minority stake holder John Malone says that he'd push to have Charter Communications make another pass at Time Warner Cable if regulators block Comcast's attempted acquisition. "Oh yes," Malone said
when asked if a Charter buy would still be on the table in such a scenaior. "That said, we're happy with the deal that was negotiated. In many ways it's a better deal than going after 100% of Time Warner Cable." To get regulatory approval, Comcast's current deal involves spinning off 2.5 million subscribers
to create a company named Greatland Communications that's co-owned by Comcast and Charter.
Comcast says their merger with Time Warner Cable is on schedule despite potential new legal skirmishes over net neutrality rules. While Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus recently stated the deal was taking longer than he expected
, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts insists that the deal is still on schedule to meet its early 2015 completion projection. That's assuming that regulators don't block the deal, something most analysts don't see as likely. "We are in the final stages of public comment," states Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. "Sometimes things get slowed down in that phase," Roberts said, but "we are full steam ahead."
Last month reports emerged
suggesting that policy folk and lawyers at larger ISPs like AT&T and Comcast were annoyed with Verizon for suing the FCC and successfully overturning the agency's net neutrality rules. Those rules, as we've noted repeatedly, omitted wireless and didn't really do much of anything outside banning the outright blocking of websites (something ISPs have no interest in).
Several weeks ago, I wrote about
how the new NBA TV rights deal would likely raise everyone’s cable bill whether you watch the NBA or not. But slowly, TV providers are realizing that customers have in fact had enough with paying for absurdly expensive regional sports networks that only a minority of customers actually watch.
During the recent rash of Comcast horror stories, Tim Lee posted this piece
exploring what it's like visiting one of Comcast's service centers which, much like the company's historically-bad phone support, isn't a particularly enjoyable experience. Comcast's now eliminating the need for you to visit one of their 500 service centers in order to return gear, striking a new deal with UPS that lets to drop off your equipment at most UPS locations. According to the announcement
, you can drop off your equipment and they'll wrap and ship it back to Comcast at no additional charge. Comcast states this new effort is "just one example of the work Comcast is doing to rethink every aspect of the customer experience."
Comcast this week stated that the cable giant has deployed around 5 million of the company's shiny new "X1" set top boxes after beginning the deployment two years ago. Comcast says they're on target to have X1's in the majority of homes within the next three years
, though that doesn't include potentially-acquired Time Warner Cable customers who are getting new set tops of their own
. Comcast's 5 million deployed X1's are only a fraction of the company's 22.3 million video subscribers, however. Comcast states that those customers on X1 are 20% less likely to leave the company.
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