To get their acquisition of NBC approved, Comcast proposed a condition requiring they offer $10 1.5 Mbps broadband to low income homes (dubbed "Internet Essentials"). As we pointed out when the program first surfaced
, Comcast proposed this condition because once potential applicants jump through a number of hoops, Comcast knew that very few low income families would actually qualify. Ultinately, Comcast was forced to expand availability of the program
after low-income Philly residents noticed this, though only after Comcast received oodles of good press for a program that really didn't have them doing all that much differently.
A new Washington Post
story profiles top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen, calling him a "wonk rock star" in the DC K Street curcuit. Post
reporter Cecilia Kang unveils that someone at Comcast had proposed Internet Essentials much earlier, but Cohen had them yank it to get approval for the NBC acquisition. The story also explores how Cohen cleverly let the FCC claim credit for the program for their own political benefit:
The initiative may not have sealed the FCC's decision to approve the NBC merger. But it helped, Cohen said. The proposal clearly captured the fancy of regulators. Late last month, Genachowski, the FCC chairman, touted the program, seemingly claiming some credit for its creation. "This particular program came from our reviewing of the Comcast NBC-U transaction," Genachowski said in a speech. "Comcast embraced it as good for the country, as well as good for business. And I'm fine with that."
On the plus side, some people got less expensive broadband, which certainly isn't a bad thing. On the other hand, you've got a Comcast lobbyist who delays a program for the poor in order to profit handsomely by buying NBC, and an FCC claiming credit for a show pony program just to earn political points and to avoid imposing tougher conditions. As we'ved noted previously
, hollow programs that do little but sound great has been a constant theme at an agency too timid to actually regulate.