Comcast took to Washington this week to sell its mega-merger with Time Warner Cable. But in a week that Comcast had hoped to parade the proposed merger past Congress and regulators it quickly became clear that the cable giant couldn't make the case.
On Tuesday, Comcast filed its official paperwork at the Federal Communications Commission. A day later, executives from Comcast and Time Warner Cable went to the Senate for the first of what will be several hearings on the deal. Every step of the way, they were asked by skeptical lawmakers to explain how, exactly, this merger would benefit the public.
Apparently, the answer is better DVRs. And that's about all we get for letting the No. 1 cable company swallow up No. 2.
If this merger goes through, Comcast's service area will cover almost two-thirds of the United States. On day one, Comcast will control nearly 50 percent of the truly high-speed Internet market, and it will be the only broadband provider that can deliver Internet and pay-TV services to nearly four out of every 10 U.S. homes.
And the company's top lobbyist has admitted, "We're certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or that they'll increase less rapidly."
But we might get better DVRs, so there's that.
Judging by the hearing, the Senate wasn't buying what Comcast was selling -- and neither is the public. On the same day Comcast submitted its FCC application explaining why the deal was supposedly in the public interest, Comcast was voted the "Worst Company in America" in a public poll at the Consumerist.
At the same time, 50 public interest organizations delivered a letter to the FCC and Justice Department saying that approval of this merger would be "unthinkable." When was the last time MoveOn, Demand Progress and the National Organization for Women agreed with the American Family Association, Tea Party Nation and the U.S. Business and Industry Council? They all think a bigger Comcast is bad for America.
The merger review is expected to stretch toward the end of this year, and as more and more details about the dangers of this deal emerge, you can expect the chorus of protest to grow even louder.
On the day of the Senate hearing, Free Press, along with Common Cause, Consumers Union, Daily Kos, Demand Progress and Working Families, announced that in the month since the merger was announced more than 400,000 people had signed petitions calling on the FCC and Justice Department to block the deal. Another 200,000 have signed petitions distributed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).
This week kicked off what will be a long fight against this merger. Comcast has already deployed an army of lobbyists in Washington -- more than a hundred by Sen. Franken's count. Comcast spent almost $20 million in lobbying last year alone (only the military contractor Northrop Grumman spent more).
Will an outraged public be able to counteract Comcast's lobbying onslaught? Can organized people beat organized money?
Well, it's the only thing that ever has.
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