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AT&T Usage Caps U-verse GigaPower at 1TB/Month; Usual Overlimit Fees Apply

Phillip Dampier April 23, 2014 AT&T, Consumer News, Internet Overcharging No Comments

rethink attAT&T has usage capped its heavily promoted U-verse GigaPower fiber to the home service at 1TB a month, according to fine print appearing on communications sent to customers.

Any customer that exceeds 1TB of usage per month will be subject to AT&T’s usual overlimit fees: $10 for each additional 50GB of data sent or received. At least AT&T currently caps the maximum overlimit fee at $30 for its fiber customers.

Many Austin GigaPower customers are singing up for the company’s Premier package, which includes a waiver of equipment, installation, and activation fees and provides 36 months of fixed rates and free HBO and HD service along with 300/300Mbps broadband.

Enrolling in a discounted promotional plan does mean you consent to allow AT&T to collect information about your browsing habits through deep packet inspection.

 

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N.J. Approves Verizon-Friendly Settlement; Verizon Now Off the Hook for Fiber Upgrades

bpuThe New Jersey Board of Public Utilities today voted unanimously to approve a Verizon-friendly settlement that lets the phone company off the hook for its 1993 commitment to offer broadband service to every resident in the state who wants it.

Critics call the decision a “total capitulation” by state regulators that proved “very amenable to Verizon’s agenda.”

Verizon will now be allowed to substitute its costly, usage-capped, high-speed 4G LTE wireless service in rural areas instead of expanding DSL or its fiber optic network FiOS.

Verizon won deregulation two decades ago in an agreement known as “Opportunity New Jersey” in return for a commitment to expand high speed Internet access to all of New Jersey by 2010 — a deadline long missed. Critics charge Verizon collected as much as $15 billion in unregulated service revenue it would have otherwise never received, yet stopped its fiber optic rollout more than two years ago.

A number of rural New Jersey communities including Hopewell, Alloway and Pilesgrove townships opposed Verizon’s settlement proposal because it would let the company walk away from its earlier commitments and leave parts of southern New Jersey without any broadband service. Now those communities may eventually be served by Verizon Wireless, but at a significant cost starting at $50 a month for up to just 4GB of broadband usage.

Verizon gets to keep its current deregulation framework in place as part of the settlement.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities consists of five commissioners all appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate for six year, staggered terms. Gov. Chris Christie’s appointees now dominate the BPU, and critics charge he uses the regulatory agency as a political patronage dumping ground. Earlier this year, he faced criticism for appointing the wife of a longtime Christie ally to lead the board. Dianne Solomon served on Christie’s transition team and brought a very thin resume to the position — serving as a paralegal and an umpire certified by the United States Tennis Association.

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AT&T GigaPower Can’t Even Reliably Deliver 300Mbps Service, Complain Customers

Bunny and TurtleWhile AT&T trumpets vague plans to upgrade up to 100 cities with gigabit fiber to the home service, some AT&T GigaPower U-verse customers in Austin wish they could just consistently get the 300Mbps service they were promised.

More than a few customers are unhappy with the service they are getting and have been vocal on an AT&T forum with complaints about service interruptions and speed issues.

Among the complaints:

Unresponsive Internet

A common complaint for U-verse GigaPower customers is a suddenly unresponsive Internet.

“Since upgrading to GigaPower often times my browser (same issue with Firefox, Safari, Chrome) will not always load or display web sites. Same thing happens with Tuba and/or Youtube,” writes bcslas. “Often it will fail to load and sometimes I see timeout errors, yet at other times the site loads fine. [...] Usually a refresh or 30 second wait to refresh will fix the issue – but it is constant.”

gigapower“I upgraded to GigaPower last December and since then, the service started getting disconnected multiple times per week,” wrote ybasha. “Sometimes it lasts a few minutes and sometimes longer. When that happens, I lose Internet and TV service. I called technical support multiple times. They sent technicians twice. One of them swapped the modem, but I still have the problem.”

“When I do a Google search from Chrome, it hangs there until it eventually times out and then I have to reload the page, after which the search results appear,” writes bustedmagnet. “Another example is in Gmail, sometimes the initial page is very slow to load, but it hangs forever when trying to open individual emails. Again, multiple page refreshes seem to fix this.”

It turns out that IPV6, enabled by default, is unreliable when using AT&T GigaPower. Customers have usually found relief downgrading to IPV4-only support or switching to Google’s IPV6 DNS servers:

  • 2001:4860:4860::8888
  • 2001:4860:4860::8844

Slow Speeds

austinAT&T GigaPower is supposed to offer 300/300Mbps service today with an upgrade to gigabit Internet forthcoming later this year. But not every customer comes close to getting those speeds. GigaOM writer Stacey Higginbotham found some customers cannot reliably get more than 75Mbps:

Yesterday I was at my brother in-law’s house where he is a GigaPower subscriber, his computer was registering speeds of 70 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up using Ookla on a wired connection. That’s fast, but not 300 Mbps fast and certainly not a gig. My brother and sister-in-law are not speed freaks like myself, but they were disappointed with the GigaPower product.

To me, what was most troubling is that they couldn’t tell me if they had signed up for AT&T’s service plan that offers them a lower price on internet service if the customer lets AT&T use your surfing habits to offer ads. They signed up for a bundle, they said, that was cheaper than their previous service.

“Upload speeds are consistently slower than download speeds,” complained egardiner. “Using att.com/speedtest, I can consistently achieve 320Mbps down, but typically never more than ~180Mbps up. The CrashPlan backup service is glacially slow, never achieving more than 3kbps when sending data to CrashPlan’s cloud servers.  CrashPlan’s techs have suggested that there are no issues on my client PC side nor on their server’s side, and they’ve asked if U-verse GigaPower is throttling backup traffic.”

Broadband Reports’ readers report Usenet newsgroup downloads appear to be heavily throttled over the GigaPower fiber network as well, with speeds dropping well below 100Mbps.

It turns out GigaPower speeds won’t help you with a good Netflix viewing experience either.

“I signed up for the U-Verse GigaPower service and the overall speeds seem to be faster,” writes mstang1988. “The bad, some of regularly used services are not performing. For example, Netflix. On Grande [a competing provider] I was always running at HD. With U-verse I’m seeming giant blocks of blur. I’m fixing to cancel.”

annoyedKim R. in Cedar Falls, Tex. isn’t happy either:

AT&T GigaPower was good for the first 20-30 days, then they made a change and my upload speed is 35-78 on average with a lot of latency and my VoIP phones cannot send or receive calls. Multiple techs were dispatched on Friday and they were at my home for 7+ hours. They eliminated my home as being the source of the issue and other friends in the neighborhood are having the same issues.

We have been in this mode for 4 days now and I have spend most of today working with tech support with no luck. Customer service was no help either when I asked them to suspend billing until they got it working again, of course there answer was “we can’t do that”.

I will loose another day of service when the tech(s) come out again tomorrow. Beware of AT&T’s GigaPower, it’s a myth so far and their techs ride on unicorns and most have no idea about any networking.

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Comcast’s Spring Cleaning: More Rate Hikes, X1 Boxes, Wireless Gateways and Usage Caps

speed increaseComcast will increase capital spending in the first half of 2014 to hasten the rollout of its advanced X1 set-top boxes and new wireless gateways that provide public Wi-Fi from customer homes.

Comcast told investors Tuesday its increased spending will likely be offset by increased earnings from more subscribers and room for further price hikes over the course of the year.

First quarter consolidated revenue increased 13.7% to $17.4 billion over the past three months. Almost $11 billion of that comes from Comcast’s cable business. The company boosted cable earnings by 5.3% in the first quarter. Most of that came from a 4.5% increase in the average customer’s cable bill. Comcast subscribers, on average, pay $134 per month. They will pay even more by the end of the year.

Although Comcast’s head of its cable division Neil Smit noted the company implemented lower rate increases during the first quarter, there is room to boost prices further.

“I wouldn’t read any trends into it,” Smit said. “We took rate increases across the smaller percentage of our footprint this quarter than last year as well, but we target different offers to different customers and I don’t think we’re seeing it topping out. In the competitive arena, the offers are in the same ballpark, the promo prices go up and down, but the destination pricing is fairly similar across these various competitors.”

Roberts

Roberts

Comcast continued to buck cord-cutting trends and added 24,000 new video customers in the quarter, a major improvement over the 25,000 it lost at the same time last year. Comcast believes its new X1 platform and aggressive customer retention efforts are responsible for winning and keeping cable television customers. Ongoing speed enhancements in Comcast’s broadband division won the company 383,000 new Internet customers in the last three months. Broadband is Comcast’s biggest money-maker, and revenues increased a further 9% during the quarter owing to customer growth, rate hikes, and customers choosing higher-speed tiers. By the end of the quarter, 38% of Comcast’s residential customers subscribed to at least 50Mbps service, showing growing demand for higher speed Internet.

Sources tell Stop the Cap! Comcast intends to further expand its trial of usage caps (Comcast prefers to call them “usage thresholds”) to more markets this year. Comcast has settled on 300GB usage allowances for most broadband products in current test markets, charging $10 for each additional allotment of 50GB as an overlimit fee. Comcast has avoided trials of usage caps in areas where Verizon FiOS delivers significant competition. Verizon has no usage caps on either their DSL or fiber broadband products.

Comcast also picked up 142,000 new phone customers in the quarter, mostly from those subscribing to aggressively priced triple play service bundle promotions. Around 155,000 new triple play customers signed up over the last three months.

At the end of the first quarter, 68% of Comcast customers took at least two products and 36% took three products, compared to 33% at the end of last year’s first quarter.

Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, said there were several factors that fueled Comcast’s growth during the quarter, starting with its advanced X1 set-top box platform, which offers a better television experience and makes finding things to watch easier. If customers have an X1, Roberts told investors, they are less likely to drop cable television service.

X1

X1

“These positive early results reinforce our decision to accelerate our X1 deployment this year, and we are now adding 15,000 to 20,000 X1 boxes per day, which is double our rate of deployment from just six months ago,” Roberts told analysts. “Additionally, we are now rolling out a new XFINITY TV app, which enables our customers to live stream virtually their entire television lineup on any IP device in the home and watch DVR recordings in the home or on the go.”

Although usage caps remain controversial, Comcast has been aggressive about increasing broadband speeds at least once a year.

“In broadband, we recently increased speeds again for the 13th time in 12 years,” Roberts offered. “Doubling speeds in our Blast products to 105Mbps, while our Extreme tier moved up to 150Mbps for customers in the northeast. And we’re not stopping there. Our focus on wireless gateway deployment is adding utility to our customers while at the same time helping us create the largest Wi-Fi footprint in the U.S. with over one million public Wi-Fi hotspots currently available to our customers.”

xfinitylogoAlthough Comcast’s first quarter capital expenditures increased $51 million (or 4.6%) to $1.1 billion (10.6% of cable revenue versus 10.7% in the first quarter of 2013), the cable company returned even more money to shareholders. In the first quarter, the company boosted return of capital by 35% to $1.3 billion. Comcast repurchased its own shares of stock totaling $750 million and paid $508 million in dividends for the quarter.

In 2014, Comcast will invest 14% of cable revenue (compared to 12.9% in 2013) to accelerate the deployment of X1 and wireless gateways, increase network capacity and continue to invest in expansion of business services and XFINITY Home. But it will spend far more than that placating shareholders. If Comcast wins support to buy Time Warner Cable, Comcast intends to increase its stock repurchase plan by $2.5 billion. The company earlier committed it would spend $3 billion on repurchasing its own shares, for an expected total of $5.5 billion during 2014.

When a company repurchases its own shares, it reduces the number of shares held by the public. That in turn means that if profits remain the same, the earnings per share increase. It also boosts the value of the massive portfolios of Comcast stock held by executives as part of their compensation packages.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Comcast Introducing the X1 Platform from XFINITY 4-14.mp4

Comcast produced this video showing off its X1 platform and new set-top boxes. (1:47)

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TWC TV App Gets Two Dozen New Channels You Probably Won’t Watch; 300+ Total Now Streaming

Phillip Dampier April 22, 2014 Consumer News, Online Video, Time Warner Cable No Comments

Time Warner Cable TV subscribers with a set-top box can now access more than two dozen new channels on the company’s TWC TV App, now offering more than 300 channels for in-home streaming.

The newly available channels may vary depending on your local lineup, but generally include a large number of subscription international channels, home shopping, and religion. (Note: ITV Gold is not part of the United Kingdom’s ITV network. It is a network targeting the South Asian diaspora with Bollywood musicals, soap operas, and movies. C1R should probably be listed as Channel One Russia (Первый Канал), so it isn’t confused with C1R.com, an adult video site. Oops.)

  1. America’s Auction Net SD
  2. BlueHighways TV HD
  3. C1R
  4. CCTV 4 America (Mandarin)
  5. CCTV News English
  6. Daystar TV Net (National)
  7. Filmy
  8. Gem Shopping Network
  9. GMA DWLS Radio
  10. GMA DZBB Radio
  11. GMA Life TV
  12. GMA Pinoy TV
  13. Infinito
  14. ITV Gold
  15. Liquidation Channel
  16. NASA TV
  17. Phoenix North America Satellite TV
  18. RAI Italia
  19. RLTV
  20. Sundance HD
  21. TV Asia
  22. TV5 Monde
  23. TVB1
  24. UTV Movies SD
  25. YouToo
  26. Zee TV
Now you can watch Law & Order reruns in HD on Sundance TV.

Now you can watch Law & Order reruns in HD on Sundance TV.

The TWC TV App is available for iOS, Android, PC & Mac, Roku, Samsung Smart TV’s, Kindle and the Xbox 360 — you can find out more about it at the TWC apps page.

The only mass interest channel in the list is Sundance HD, although NASA TV is also a welcome addition.

Viewing is free for current cable subscribers, but many of these channels may not be available for viewing outside of the home.

 

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AT&T Shakes Its Moneymaker: Look How Many Customers Upgrade to 10GB Data Plans

mobile share

At least 46 percent of AT&T’s wireless customers are now paying at least $100 a month for a Mobile Share account with at least a 10GB usage allowance, a dramatic increase of more than 11 million customers during the last three months alone. AT&T customers used to pay a flat rate of $30 a month for unlimited wireless data. Now they pay much, much more for much less usage.

AT&T’s Mobile Share plans start at $20 a month (plus the cost of the device) and include just 300MB of data. Prices escalate from there (all prices don’t include the cost of the device)

  • yay att$20 for 300MB
  • $25 for 1GB
  • $40 for 2GB
  • $70 for 4GB
  • $80 for 6GB
  • $100 for 10GB
  • $130 for 15GB
  • $150 for 20GB
  • $225 for 30GB
  • $300 for 40GB
  • $375 for 50GB

AT&T is banking on growing mobile data use to earn the company perpetually accelerating revenue and dramatically higher average revenue per customer. The average AT&T customer does not come close to exceeding their current allowance, but the company’s sales force has proven exceptionally adept at convincing customers to upgrade to higher allowance plans whether the customer needs one or not.

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Time Warner Cable Provides Details on Upgrades for New York City and Los Angeles

twcmaxTime Warner Cable reports it has unleashed major broadband speed upgrades for a handful of communities in New York and Los Angeles and is now delivering speeds up to 300Mbps.

After overhauling its network and neighborhood nodes, residential customers in Costa Mesa and West Hollywood, Calif., Staten Island and the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., should now be getting faster broadband speeds ranging from 50Mbps for Standard (formerly 15Mbps) to 300Mbps for Extreme (formerly 50Mbps) service.

“These significant speed increases and network enhancements will allow our Internet customers to get the most out of their TWC experience,” said Time Warner Cable CEO Robert D. Marcus. “With this service transformation, our customers can enjoy all the ways they use TWC Internet even better, including streaming video, downloading music and more.”

Time Warner Cable’s senior vice president for corporate development Mike Roudi said Time Warner Cable expects to roll out similar upgrades nationwide over the next two years. But Comcast may have other ideas if it successfully completes its merger with Time Warner Cable by this time next year.

The cable company’s progress in rolling out upgrades is not as fast as their new top broadband speeds. Time Warner only expects to reach 200,000 customers with the new speeds by the end of June. The next areas scheduled for upgrades include:

  • California: Covina, Cypress, Hoover, Crenshaw District and Jefferson Park areas of Los Angeles;
  • New York: Upper Manhattan and more neighborhoods in Queens and Staten Island.

Time Warner said it expects to complete upgrades in New York and Los Angeles by the end of this year. No timeline was provided to start upgrades in other cities. Affected Time Warner customers will be contacted about replacing their existing DOCSIS 2 modem and getting set-top boxes for the all-digital television conversion that accompanies the upgrade.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/TWC Talks About New Customer Experience in NY LA 4-22-14.mp4

Time Warner Cable’s Mike Roudi explains how the cable company is upgrading customers for faster broadband speeds and all-digital television service in this company-produced video. (1:49)

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Cable Industry Lobbies to Get Rid of CableCARDs: The Return of the Mandatory Set-Top Box?

Phillip Dampier April 22, 2014 Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has approved a draft bill that could effectively render current CableCARD technology obsolete  by allowing cable operators to encrypt channels and introduce new security measures that only work with the cable company’s set-top box.

Cablecard_SciAtl_3-4_view

If you look closely inside your cable set-top box, chances are good a CableCARD similar to this is installed inside. But perhaps not for long.

With strong support from the cable industry, the House Subcommittee approved the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) with language that would end the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on built-in descrambler set-top box equipment unavailable to competitors.

Section 629 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act requires that consumers have adequate access to alternative equipment to view multichannel video programming. In 2003, the FCC adopted the cable industry-developed CableCARD standard that would let customers view encrypted channels without leasing a traditional set-top cable box.

In fact, if you own a cable set-top box manufactured after 2007, chances are you already have a CableCARD without realizing it. It is built-in to your set-top box and decrypts and authorizes your cable television lineup. The cable industry never saw any need to incorporate CableCARDs into set-top equipment because it was designed to handle those functions without needing the extra card. But the FCC’s “integration ban” has insisted cable companies use the CableCARD with hopes it would stimulate universal support of the technology and help facilitate a breakup of the leased set-top box monopoly.

The cable industry has itself largely to blame for the FCC’s actions. Prior to 1992, some cable operators were notorious for saddling customers with expensive set-top boxes that were large and unwieldy. Cable companies regularly raised the rental price of the mandatory equipment in rate increase maneuvers and charged huge penalties when boxes were lost, stolen, or damaged.

Many cable customers never wanted the boxes, preferring “cable-ready” service, which let the television sort out the television lineup without any extra equipment.

But “Cable-ready” televisions were an impediment to the revenue-enhancing possibilities offered by digital cable television that became common in the 1990s. Existing television sets could not receive the digital channels without a set-top box and many customers avoided upgrading service because of the extra costs and equipment requirements. In other areas, signal theft pushed the industry towards encrypting more than just a few premium movie channels. In high theft areas like New York City, cable operators won permission to scramble most, if not all the cable television lineup. Customers needed boxes to receive those encrypted channels.

As early as January 2005, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the FCC that independent alternatives like the CableCARD were in direct “conflict with cable’s own market imperatives,” adding there was no economic incentive to support third-party equipment and adopting it would result in increased cable bills.

Powell

Powell

Now that CableCARD technology is with us, most cable companies rarely mention it unless customers directly ask. Even CableLabs, the industry engineering group that develops and markets a variety of cable industry technology, has also avoided the subject.

Without any significant backing from the cable industry, most customers never realized they had another option when the cable technician arrived with a leased set-top box in hand. Television manufacturers dropped support for the little-known technology as well.

Cable industry advancements like on-demand viewing don’t work with the standalone CableCARD, creating a disadvantage that further hurt the technology’s chances.

The cable industry argues times have changed and consumers don’t generally want CableCARDs.

NCTA president Michael Powell told Congress that more than 45 million CableCARD-enabled set-top devices are now sitting in customer homes, but only 600,000 of them were requested by cable customers for use in third-party devices. Powell argues supporting CableCARD technology means customers with a leased box are paying for redundant technology. One large cable operator claimed the average set-top box now costs an extra $40-50 to support CableCARD technology.

“Additionally, based on EPA figures, cable subscribers collectively foot the bill for roughly 500 million kilowatt hours consumed by CableCARDs each year,” said Powell. “By all measures, the costs of this misguided rule clearly outweigh its benefits.”

In the end the subcommittee agreed to a compromise by eliminating the “integration ban” that effectively keeps cable companies from switching on new security technology that might not work with CableCARDs but also gives the FCC the authority to create or authorize new independent set-top box technology ‘when needed.’

This means either the cable industry could develop a next generation of CableCARDs that work with advanced security measures or more likely the ongoing advancement of IP-delivery of television programming could make the matter moot. As the cable industry moves towards online streaming of cable channels, various third-party devices like Roku could be used to access much of the cable lineup without worrying about a CableCARD. Recording such programming for later viewing will likely require agreements with copyright-obsessed programmers, the cable industry, and manufacturers, however.

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Netflix Will Raise Price for Streaming Service; New Customers Could Pay $10/Month

netflix-logoNetflix intends to raise the price of its online video service to as much as $10 a month sometime during the next three months to help finance content acquisition and improve its streamed video experience. But for up to two years, the new price will probably not impact existing customers.

CEO Reed Hastings announced in a first-quarter earnings letter to shareholders that Netflix intends to raise prices by $1 or $2 a month, initially only applying to new members:

“In the U.S. we have greatly improved our content selection since we introduced our streaming plan in 2010 at $7.99 per month. Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing ($7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period.

Netflix has already raised prices for some of its European customers after a rate hike experiment in Ireland was accepted by customers. New customers have to pay the new rate immediately, but existing members in good standing are unaffected for two years before rates reset.

In a separate announcement, Netflix today also formally announced its opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

If the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger is approved, the combined company’s footprint will pass over 60 percent of U.S. broadband households, after the proposed divestiture, with most of those homes having Comcast as the only option for truly high-speed broadband (>10Mbps). As DSL fades in favor of cable Internet, Comcast could control high-speed broadband to the majority of American homes. Comcast is already dominant enough to be able to capture unprecedented fees from transit providers and services such as Netflix. The combined company would possess even more anticompetitive leverage to charge arbitrary interconnection tolls for access to their customers. For this reason, Netflix opposes this merger.

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The New Guilded Age is Pay-Per-View; Comcast-TWC Merger Like a Throwback to An Earlier Era

gildedA merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast is just one more step towards undermining our democracy, worries former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

In a blog entry republished by Salon, Reich sees increasing evidence that the trust-busting days at the turn of the 20th century are long over, and Americans will likely have to relearn the lessons of allowing capitalism to run amuck.

It was the Republican Party of the 1890s that had the loudest voice in Washington protesting the concentration of business power into vast monopolies that had grown so large, they not only hurt consumers but threatened to undermine democracy itself.

Republican Senator John Sherman of Ohio was at the forefront of acting against centralized industrial power, which he likened to the abusive policies of the British crown that sparked America’s revolution for independence.

“If we will not endure a king as a political power,” Sherman thundered, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”

The merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable is just the latest example America is in a new gilded age of wealth and power that no longer prevents or busts up concentrations of economic power, observes Reich.

“Internet service providers in America are already too concentrated, which is why Americans pay more for Internet access than the citizens of almost any other advanced nation,” Reich argues.

Reich

Reich

Reich worries about the implications of allowing Comcast to grow larger, considering how much the current company already invests in Washington to get the government policies it wants:

  • Comcast has contributed $1,822,395 so far in the 2013-2014 election cycle, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics — ranking it 18th of all 13,457 corporations and organizations that have donated to campaigns since the cycle began. Of that total, $1,346,410 has gone to individual candidates, including John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid; $323,000 to Leadership PACs; $278,235 to party organizations; and $261,250 to super PACs;
  • Comcast is also one of the nation’s biggest revolving doors. Of its 107 lobbyists, 86 worked in government before lobbying for Comcast. In-house lobbyists include several former chiefs of staff to Senate and House Democrats and Republicans as well as a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. Nor is Time Warner Cable a slouch when it comes to political donations, lobbyists, and revolving doors. It also ranks near the top.
Atwell-Baker

Atwell-Baker

The Center for Responsive Politics expanded on the revolving door issue between the cable industry and the Federal Communications Commission that will be responsible for approving the Comcast-Time Warner merger.

It found one of the most prominent travelers to be former FCC commissioner-turned Comcast lobbyist Meredith Atwell-Baker. Always a friend of the cable industry, the Republican commissioner hurried out the door two years into her four-year term after getting a lucrative job offer from Comcast in June 2011. Despite claims she stopped participating in votes relating to Comcast after getting her job offer, she was a strong supporter of Comcast’s merger with NBCUniversal and favored the cable industry’s approach towards preserving a barely noticeable feather-light regulatory touch.

Atwell-Baker never contemplated her move might be seen as a conflict of interest, but then again, it represented nothing new for Washington. At the time, the only condition limiting her was a two-year ban on lobbying the FCC. But that does not apply to Congress so Atwell-Baker spent her time as Comcast’s senior vice president of government affairs trying to influence the House and Senate on 21 bills that could affect Comcast’s bottom line.

Just as shameless — Michael Powell, who served as FCC chairman during the first term of the George W. Bush Administration. After leaving the FCC he took the lucrative position of top man at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the cable lobby. The Center found several other former FCC employees heading into the private sector, advising Big Telecom companies on how to best influence regulators:

  • Rudy Brioche, was an adviser to former commissioner Adelstein before moving to Comcast as its senior director of external affairs and public policy counsel in 2009. Brioche was so valued by the FCC, in fact, that he was brought back to join the commission’s Advisory Committee for Diversity in the Digital Age in 2011;
  • James Coltharp, who served as a special counsel to commissioner James H. Quello until 1997, is now a Comcast lobbyist;

comcast twcOnce out of the public sector for several years, some lobbyists see their value deteriorate as they get increasingly out of touch with the latest administration in power. So several seek a refresh, temporarily leaving their lobbying job to return to public sector work.

The Center offered David Krone as a potential example. Krone formerly held leadership and lobbying positions with companies like AT&T, TCI Communications and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. After 2008, he was hired by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to advise him on telecommunications matters. Today he is Reid’s chief of staff. If and when Reid leaves office, Krone can always join the parade of ex-Hill staffers back to the lucrative world of lobbying.

Will elected officials give a receptive ear to Comcast’s arguments in favor of its merger? Most likely, considering every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (except deal critic Sen. Al Franken), has recently received campaign contributions from the cable giant, according to OpenSecrets:

gilded-age.gjf_Comcast PAC donations to Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats

  • Chuck Schumer, New York: $35,000
  • Patrick Leahy, Vermont, Chairman: $32,500
  • Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island: $26,500
  • Chris Coons, Delaware: $25,000
  • Dick Durbin, Illinois: $23,000
  • Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota: $22,500
  • Dianne Feinstein, California: $18,500
  • Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut: $11,500
  • Mazie Hirono, Hawaii: $5,000
  • Al Franken, Minnesota: $0

Comcast PAC donations to Republicans

  • Orrin Hatch, Utah: $30,000
  • Chuck Grassley, Iowa, Ranking Member: $28,500
  • John Cornyn, Texas: $21,000
  • Lindsey Graham, South Carolina: $13,500
  • Jeff Sessions, Alabama: $10,000
  • Mike Lee, Utah: $8,500
  • Ted Cruz, Texas: $2,500
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona: $1,000

Reich thinks its time to return to the trust-busting days of President Teddy Roosevelt, who found the transportation infrastructure of the 20th century and the fuel used to power it increasingly controlled by a handful of giant players that abused monopoly power to set unjustifiable prices and suppress competition. Getting Congress, increasingly flush with now-unlimited corporate money, to agree to its own refresh a century later may prove a tougher sell.

 

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  • txpatriot: Liz, click the bolded items; those are Phillip's sources. He is very good about providing his sources....
  • Glen Dragon: Sorry, but I think this post misses a few key details. Not that I disagree that AT&T only has their interests in mind. First off, "Unlimited"...
  • Michael Elling (@Infostack): Phil, any idea what these upgrades typically cost in total and also on a per sub and per home passed basis?...
  • Milan in Austin: The Austin, TX TWC broadband upgrade should be completed in June. I'm really looking forward to it. Considering that the Google Fiber (vaporware) exp...
  • Liz: "Some states have accepted AT&T’s deal only to find their residents’ phone bills rapidly increasing with no corresponding improvement in service."...
  • Dean Martin: I live in the mountains of California. At first, I had Hughes. It barely ever worked and cost a LOT! Then I heard about Wildblue, switched and was hap...
  • William Elliot: Proposing legislation to prevent small companies from offering web service is not only greedy and evil, it's against free interprise. AT&T with ...
  • ICYNDICEY: This company sucks dick!...
  • Bob: You have a serious problem. It's the fact that you're in L.A. You see, Californians are the suckers of America. You pay more for everything and get...
  • Michael Elling (@Infostack): Paul, there are tons of ironies and tragedies in this topic; even dating back 70 and 100 years ago. But perhaps the bigger one is the impact on the a...
  • Paul Houle: If broadcasters get what they are asking for it could be the beginning of the end for OTA TV. Broadcasters get licenses to provide a public service...
  • Michael Elling (@Infostack): Phil, I thought this was an appeal by the Broadcasters to overturn a lower court ruling in favor of Aereo. No? They just need a draw, or 4-4, to win...

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