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Comcast’s Collection Calls Hound Woman for 9 Months Over $527 Bill She Already Paid

comcastA Philadelphia woman is suing Comcast after its collections department allegedly placed automated calls to her personal cell number once or twice a day for almost nine months to collect a past due cable bill she says was paid in 2011.

Kim Elder and her attorney Craig Thor Kimmel from Kimmel & Silverman, P.C., are seeking a refund for the per-minute cell charges incurred answering Comcast’s collection calls, damages of $500 per call for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), triple damages of $1,500 per call due to Comcast’s “malicious, intentional, willful, reckless, wanton, disregard” of Elder’s rights, as well as additional injunctive relief if the court finds Comcast’s actions egregious.

James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse - Philadelphia, Pa.

James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse – Philadelphia, Pa.

Elder’s lawsuit states the automated collection calls began in September 2014, always beginning with a pre-recorded announcement stating the call was originating from Comcast. The call would then be transferred to a collection agent seeking payment for a $527 cable television bill. The complaint states Elder paid that bill years ago and repeatedly asked Comcast to stop the calls, but claims they continued daily through at least mid-June of this year.

First enacted in 1991, the TCPA (among other things) regulates telemarketing calls, the use of automated equipment to make calls, use of automated or pre-recorded voices during calls and the means and manner of sending faxes. Ongoing clarifications by the Federal Communications Commission over the years have tightened the rules to close or curtail loopholes and give consumers easier ways to revoke consent for future calls.

A lawsuit decided earlier this month found Time Warner Cable liable to a Texas woman for almost $230,000 in damages for repeatedly calling the wrong number to reach another customer. Because part of the call was automated, and Time Warner did not stop the calls after being asked, a judge used damage provisions in the TCPA to heavily fine the cable company.

Elder’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia — home to both Elder and Comcast’s corporate headquarters.

Cases of this type are usually required to be designated for arbitration within the court system to guarantee a speedy civil trial if Comcast does not privately settle with Elder and her attorney.

An AT&T Emergency Generator Left On for Weeks Drives San Jose Family Out of Their Home

Phillip Dampier July 8, 2015 AT&T, Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Video No Comments
U-verse cabinets often make the evening news when they are plunked down in your front yard. With statewide video franchise laws, you and your local community leaders no longer have a say.

U-verse cabinets often make the evening news when they are plunked down in your front yard, as this report from North Carolina shows.

A drunk driver that managed to take out one of AT&T’s “lawn refrigerators” powering its U-verse service in San Jose was the start of a four-week nightmare for a family driven from their home by a loud, polluting emergency generator left running by the phone company 24 hours a day.

AT&T responded to the accident scene after half the neighborhood lost service. Technicians installed a replacement green lawn box and fired up an emergency generator to restore service until Pacific Gas & Electric could arrive to hook up regular power to the AT&T box.

And then nothing happened… for weeks.

Emily White’s home on New Jersey Ave was treated to nearly a month of continuous generator noise and fumes that made staying in the house impossible.

“We could smell the exhaust in our house and the noise was just endless and loud,” White told KGO-TV. “It vibrated the windows, we couldn’t use our backyard, we went away on the weekends just to get away from it.”

The family ended up canceling their Father’s Day barbecue and left for an area hotel, regularly calling AT&T to try to get them to deal with the generator but had no response. But it turned out they may have called the wrong company to complain.

Nearly a month after the accident, PG&E trucks arrived to finally restore power to AT&T’s equipment. They also assumed full responsibility for the delay.

“We could have and should have done better by this customer. We want to do a deeper dive into why the work took so long,” PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt said.

The electric company is also picking up the cost of the family’s hotel stay.

KGO-TV reports PG&E may have been the guilty party for leaving an AT&T emergency generator up and running for nearly a month. (2:11)

Shameless Morning Joe/MSNBC Puff Piece on Comcast Founder Ralph Roberts

Phillip Dampier June 25, 2015 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Video 3 Comments
Roberts

Roberts

Although perhaps understandable that MSNBC (owned by Comcast) would report on the death Ralph Roberts, the founder of America’s largest cable operator, some thought Joe Scarborough went too far in a nearly seven minute puff piece about Roberts on Morning Joe, recounting the history of Comcast and its founder.

“Tupelo, Mississippi. That was our introduction to the cable business,” Roberts said. “I didn’t pay too much attention to Tupelo because I didn’t know anything about cable — I didn’t even know what it was. And Tupelo, nobody ever heard of that except I later found out it was the birthplace of Elvis Presley.”

Scarborough was very friendly about Comcast, calling it “a family” he was proud to work for.

Roberts went on to say he raised his kids to go forth and do whatever gives them the greatest happiness and don’t worry about what anyone says about it.

“I wanted to throw up,” said Stop the Cap! reader Joe Weigel. “Comcast is a family, but so are the ‎Gambinos, the ‎Bonannos and the ‎Luccheses. Maybe that goes a little far and I feel bad when anyone passes away and hold nothing against the patriarch of the Roberts family on this sad occasion. But what the hell is NBC News thinking running a seven minute puff piece about the founder of the most-hated corporation in America without bothering to mention that fact? I’m more angry about that than anything.”

“They have all that airtime and tell a very one-sided tale about a family whose ethics in the cable business is frankly to do whatever gives them the greatest happiness and not worry about what anyone says about it,” Weigel adds. “That isn’t news and it’s shameful for a news channel to discard any standards in journalism and produce a story that doesn’t even try to tell the whole story. Viewers deserved better.”

Roberts died June 18th. He was 95.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/MSNBC Comcast Lovefest 6-25-15.mp4

Morning Joe aired a very gracious piece about the founder of the most-hated corporation in America. Ralph Roberts founded Comcast in 1963. He died last week at the age of 95. MSNBC is wholly owned by Comcast. (6:49)

Illinois Supreme Court Orders Comcast to Reveal Identity of Anonymous Comment Troll

troll sprayComcast must reveal the identity of its broadband subscriber who left an anonymous comment on the Freeport Journal Standard’s website that suggested a political candidate was a child molester.

The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a local court ruling that compels Comcast to name the writer known as “Fuboy” and share that information with Bill Hadley, who ran for a seat on the Stephenson County board in 2011.

In response to a story about Hadley, “Fuboy” anonymously attacked the candidate in a comment attached to the story:

“Hadley is a Sandusky waiting to be exposed,” the commenter wrote. “Check out the view he has of Empire (Elementary School) from his front door.”

Sandusky is an apparent reference to former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, convicted of child sexual abuse in 2012.

Hadley spent three and a half years and more than $30,000 pursuing the identity of the commenter. Hadley is a retired Illinois corrections officer and chairman of the county board.

“It’ll be a huge victory for me, but it has practically broke me financially,” Hadley told the Associated Press.

At the heart of the case is whether a person is allowed to make potentially libelous comments anonymously on an online forum. Multiple court rulings in Illinois suggest there is no guarantee of privacy if those comments defame another.

“There are folks who go through life thinking that the Internet provides permanent anonymous protection. This case makes clear that that’s not true,” said Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association.

Atlanta Reporter Discovers the Insidious World of ALEC, Gets Thrown Out of His Hotel Room

Chatham County Sheriff's Deputy O'Berry ejects a WXIA-TV news crew from a Savannah, Ga. hotel room at the direction of a senior official of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Chatham County Sheriff’s Deputy O’Berry ejects a WXIA-TV news crew from a Savannah, Ga. hotel room at the direction of a senior official of the American Legislative Exchange Council. (Image: WXIA-TV)

When an Atlanta news crew from WXIA-TV asked questions about a closed-door meeting involving Georgia lawmakers, wireless industry lobbyists, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, Bill Meierling, vice president of communications for ALEC, directed four armed sheriff’s deputies to kick the news crew out of their hotel rooms and escort them to the street.

“I am a guest of the hotel, sir,” WXIA reporter Brendan Keefe told Chatham County sheriff’s deputy A. O’Berry.

“Not for long, we’ll take care of that,” responded O’Berry.

“Are we violating a law here?” Keefe asked another deputy who told them to gather their belongings.

“Don’t say nothing,” O’Berry told the other deputy.

“To protect Republicans and serve giant corporations,” said Atlanta resident Larry Jefferson, who tipped us off. “To watch a hack from ALEC wave his arm and see armed deputies throw a reporter who paid for his room out of a hotel for just asking questions should wake up every American about where this country has gone.”

In a resort hotel in Savannah, the newest crop of bills likely to end up before Georgia lawmakers are being written by corporate lobbyists for introduction by friendly legislators willing to do their bidding.

At ALEC’s Communications & Technology Task Force Luncheon, Keefe spotted Rep. Ben Harmon hobnobbing with a lobbyist for CTIA, the giant wireless lobby. When he approached Harmon, Keefe was pulled out of the room. He soon found Meierling in the lobby being watched over by four off duty Chatham County deputies paid to protect ALEC’s event.

“Turn off the camera,” Meierling demanded.

alec-logo-smWhen Keefe refused, Meierling told him he was going to have him thrown out of the hotel.

Keefe persisted and asked who was paying for the legislators to attend. “Lobbyists?” Keefe asked.

“No,” Meierling replied.

Unfortunately for Meierling, looser lips from an unidentified New England legislator and two lobbyists in the hotel bar the night before suggested otherwise. One lobbyist admitted she paid a higher fee to be there to help subsidize legislators’ travel expenses.

Meierling

Meierling

When confronted with that information, Meierling sighed deeply and waved over the officers to do their duty… to ALEC.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Deputy O’Berry immediately demanded as he walked up to the reporter. He was uninterested in the fact Keefe was a paid guest at the hotel. Keefe and WXIA had to go, to protect the interests and the secrecy of a group that is responsible for writing many state laws across the country.

“It’s a corporate bill mill,” said former ALEC member Sen. Nan Orreck. “The truth be told, they write the bills.”

“There are votes taken that have the corporate folks at the same table voting with the legislators on what bills to pick and that at its core just screams out inappropriate,” Orreck said. She left the group.

For the convenience of legislators, ALEC model bills come to their desks already written. All a legislator has to do is fill in the name of his or her state on a blank line and the bill is ready for introduction. To help educate lawmakers about the hot button issues bothering America’s largest corporations, ALEC’s legislative members — almost all Republicans — are paid “scholarships” in the thousands of dollars to attend resort meetings.

David Ralston, the speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, even penned a fundraising letter on ALEC letterhead looking for $5,000 contributions to send fellow lawmakers to ALEC’s annual meetings.

“O’Berry and those other deputies should be suspended, fired, and then thrown in jail for dereliction of duty,” Jefferson believes. “These deputies either don’t know or don’t care about the law, something O’Berry was well aware of when he told another deputy to keep his mouth shut.”

“ALEC exists to subvert our democracy and any identified member of this group in public office should no longer be there.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WXIA Atlanta ALEC -- The Backroom Where Laws Are Born 5-20-15.mp4

WXIA-TV in Atlanta introduces viewers to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that can summon sheriff’s deputies to toss a reporter out of a hotel where he was a paid guest just for asking too many embarrassing questions. (6:31)

HissyFitWatch: New Hampshire Town Declares War on Comcast: “On a Scale of 1-10, Comcast is a Zero”

comcast gunThe community of Hampton Falls, N.H., was first settled in the year 1638 but many of the 2,200 residents of the New England town are settling for Comcast no more.

Selectmen of Hampton Falls called on Comcast to send a representative to their meeting after scores of locals complained about the awfulness of the local cable company.

“Comcast’s service is absolutely miserable,” said Hampton Falls vice-chairman Larry Smith. “On a scale of 1-10, I’d say it’s a zero.”

Smith shared a personal experience about his wife’s attempt to shift her business email to her residential account. Comcast repeatedly sent her to the wrong department.

“This is designed to be the worst system possible,” Smith said. “It’s a virtual monopoly. Comcast doesn’t reward or honor loyalty. If you don’t have an hour or two to devote to it, you don’t even bother picking up the phone.”

Comcast made another local resident drive back and forth to Portsmouth three times to pick up a new router because the equipment proved defective each time.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t get irate, but this ticked me off,” the customer said.

hampton fallsComcast representative Jay Somers took heat throughout the meeting for missed service calls, poor equipment, poor Internet service, and lousy customer service.

His responses did not seem to satisfy residents:

  • On missed service calls, Somers said Comcast did not provide enough technicians to handle service calls in the area. He added the company tries to have someone responding within 24 hours, but that obviously was not consistently happening in Hampton Falls;
  • On Internet outages, Somers blamed customers using their own purchased modems instead of relying on Comcast’s own Internet Gateway, which costs an extra $10 per month;
  • Television and other outages were the fault of home wiring or animals allowed to chew on Comcast’s cables.

Somers promised Comcast treated every customer the same, regardless of whether they were a budget minded customer or one taking every service they have.

While in no rush to deal with customer complaints, Comcast sent a letter signed by Nick Leuci, vice president of franchising, pressuring the town to hurry renewal of Comcast’s local franchise, despite having over a year remaining on the current agreement.

Based on the number of complaints from local residents, the board decided to take that matter up at a later date.

Wall Street Investment Bankers Start Worrying They Won’t Get Their Fat Fees if Comcast Merger Fails

merger smash

With regulators considering rejecting Comcast’s $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, investment bankers hoping to reap fat fees “advising” Comcast and Time Warner Cable about the deal are starting to panic they won’t get paid.

Although a merger flop won’t hurt giants like JPMorgan Chase, which operates a 24/7 cash vacuum, continuously sucking fees from companies engaged in Mergermania, smaller “boutique” investment banks like Allen & Co., Centerview Partners, and PJT Partners don’t have that luxury.

Reuters reports some of the smaller investment banks involved in the deal are now on edge, worried they won’t get their share of at least $140 million in investment banking advisory fees that would be paid to complete the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger deal.

“Big banks have many deals going on, and they can afford to lose one more, even though it is painful. Smaller firms are less diversified, so for them it’s much more painful,” Campbell Harvey, a professor of international business at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, told Reuters.

But crying towels are also being readied for investment bankers involved in two side deals involving Charter Communications, which are likely to also fall apart in a chain reaction if the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger dies.

dominoesCharter has deals pending with both Comcast and Time Warner Cable to launch GreatLand Connections and have plans to takeover Bright House Networks, both contingent on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger getting approval.

Those two transactions will bring another $170 million in fees to investment bankers, with JPMorgan Chane, former top Morgan Stanley banker Taubman, and Barclays Bank splitting $51-68 million in fees between the three firms.

Time Warner Cable’s own advisers are waiting for $57-75 million in fees as well, among them Morgan Stanley, Allen & Co., Citigroup, and Centerview Partners.

To understand how important the fees are to smaller bankers, Taubman was ranked 23rd in mergers & acquisitions fees in 2014. Without the Comcast deal, Taubman drops out of the top-100.

Some bankers may have negotiated a token fee to be paid by Comcast and Time Warner Cable if the deal falls apart. Most estimates suggest usual fees amount to around 10-15 percent of the amount they would collect if a merger is successfully completed.

HissyFitWatch: Republicans Accuse the White House of Pressuring FCC on Net Neutrality

Wheeler at this morning's hearing.

Wheeler at this morning’s hearing.

Revenge-seeking Republicans spent more than two hours this morning grilling the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, in the first of five Congressional hearings on the agency to be held over the next two weeks.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused the FCC of a lack of transparency regarding the recent release of Net Neutrality rules that universally ban paid fast lanes and revenue-based traffic management. Republicans accused the Obama Administration of secretly pressuring Wheeler to adopt strong Open Internet protections.

“The lack of transparency surrounding the open Internet rule-making process raises a lot of questions,” said Chaffetz.

Chaffetz, most of his Republican colleagues, and many large telecom companies object to the Net Neutrality rules and suggest Wheeler’s rumored original lighter-touch “hybrid approach” was swamped by White House objections and replaced with a much stronger Open Internet policy framed around Title II reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service at the urging of the administration.

Chaffetz dismissed comments from four million Americans writing the FCC in favor of Net Neutrality claiming the writers did not recommend Title II reclassification of broadband, despite the fact many suggested exactly that.

To bolster Republican arguments that President Obama exercised undue influence on an independent agency, Chaffetz’s committee selectively released portions of now-unredacted email exchanges between Wheeler, agency officials, Congress, and the White House. It also included a partial e-mail exchange involving AT&T’s top lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, who is evidently on a first-name basis with some of the FCC’s highest officials, including Wheeler’s senior counselor, Philip Verveer.

In response to a November 10 news release featuring comments from FCC chairman Wheeler in response to President Barack Obama’s statements of support for strong Net Neutrality, Cicconi sent a concerned email to Wheeler’s office the Republicans chose not to disclose. But they did include Verveer’s response:

Jim,

We’re trying to schedule a conversation about this morning’s developments for some time this afternoon. I hope we’re able to connect.

Phil

In response to that, Cicconi fired off this quick response from his iPad:

I hope so too.

Now I at least understand why you pushed the hybrid.

This is awful. And bad for any semblance of agency independence too.

Too many people saw Zients going in to meet with Tom last week.

verveer

Cicconi is referring to Jeff Zients, a White House economic adviser, who met with Wheeler on Nov. 6. In Cicconi’s mind, and by extension the Republicans at today’s House hearing, that meeting represented “undue pressure from the White House.”

Republicans also attempted to prove the FCC and the White House closely collaborated on a rollout of Net Neutrality using an email from an irritated Wheeler to his senior staff shortly after his driveway was blocked by Net Neutrality activists:

FYI, Isn’t it interesting:

  1. The day of the demonstration just happens to be the day folks take action at my house.
  2. The video of [President Obama] just happens to end up on the same message as the video from [the president].
  3. The White House sends this email to their supporter list asking “pass this on to anyone who cares about saving the Internet.”

Hmmm….

wheeler demo

chaffetz

Chaffetz

But Wheeler’s message suggests he was never aware of the White House’s campaign to bolster Net Neutrality, much less a part of it.

A third email from then Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office revealed the senator was no fan of Title II reclassification of broadband to protect Net Neutrality. David Krone, Reid’s chief of staff, lectured Wheeler about keeping strong Net Neutrality off the table because it creates “problems for us.”

In May 2014, chairman Wheeler announced his plans for a hybrid approach to Net Neutrality that would likely combine bans on censorship with permission for Internet providers to set up paid fast lanes for content producers like Netflix.

Initial media reports of Wheeler’s intentions sparked a major backlash against the proposal among Net Neutrality advocates.

In a May 15, 2014 email exchange with Wheeler, Krone attempted to buck up Wheeler and his “third way” Net Neutrality plan once in the morning before it was announced and later that evening after the proposal took heavy fire in the press.

9:26 am (Krone to Wheeler)

Good luck today.

Not sure how things have landed but I trust you to make it work. Please shout if you need anything.

Spoke again with the [White House] and told them to back off Title II. Went through once again the problems it creates for us.

6:15pm (Krone to Wheeler)

Too funny. I literally just watched your remarks from this morning. Spot on. Thank you!!!

P.S. Zients was definitely reacting to press reports. Or, should I say, overreacting. My main point to the [White House] is how can you declare today that regulations written in the 1930’s will work fine for 2014 technology. Let Tom do his job and this will be fine.

reid

Another email exchange between Wheeler and John Podesta, counselor to the president, referenced a New York Times story that signaled Wheeler was backpedaling on Net Neutrality, a story later proven inaccurate.

podesta

At this morning’s hearing, Wheeler pushed back against the Republican accusations.

“There were no secret instructions from the White House,” Wheeler said. “I did not, as CEO of an independent agency, feel obligated to follow the president’s recommendation.”

C-SPAN carried this morning’s hearing with FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (2 hours, 41 minutes)

Lawsuit Plaintiff Byron Allen: Comcast Uses ‘Least Expensive Negro’ Al Sharpton to Cover Up Discrimination

Allen

Allen: Comcast thinks “Give Sharpton $50,000 and a bucket of chicken and we’re good.”

A $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of black-owned media companies has uncovered alleged ties between executives of Comcast and Time Warner Cable and public officials who have allegedly helped cover up cable industry discrimination, price-fixing, collusion, and illegal payoffs.

Byron Allen, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios, in a blitz of eyebrow-raising interviews, accuses the two cable giants of putting minority-owned channels in the back of the bus, while falsely claiming black celebrities are the owners of minority networks that are actually controlled by former Comcast executives and private equity firms.

“Comcast has, in essence, created a ‘Jim Crow’ process with respect to licensing channels from 100 percent African American–owned media,” the suit reads, according to The Huffington Post. “Comcast has reserved a few spaces for 100 percent African American–owned media in the ‘back of the bus’ while the rest of the bus is occupied by white-owned media companies.”

The lawsuit, filed against Time Warner Cable, Comcast, the Urban League, the NAACP, former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, claims the defendants are taking payoffs from the two cable giants and colluding to promote their business agendas and give minority support to their mergers and acquisitions.

“The industry spends about $50 billion a year licensing cable networks in which 100 percent African American-owned media receives less than $3 million per year in revenue from that $50 billion stream of money that is spent to acquire content,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, many African-American civil rights organizations would immediately raise a ruckus over the imbalance, but Allen alleges Comcast and Time Warner Cable have bought their silence, and in the case of Al Sharpton, his loyalty and support.

Byron Allen accuses Comcast of locking out 100% black-owned networks.

Byron Allen accuses Comcast of locking out 100% black-owned networks.

“Instead of spending real money with real, 100 percent African American-owned media, it is easier to give [Sharpton] $50,000 to give them a cover,” he said. “‘Give [Sharpton] $50,000 and a bucket of chicken and we’re good.'”

Allen called Sharpton the “least expensive negro” Comcast could find, and rewarded his loyalty with a $750,000 annual salary hosting a barely watched nightly show on Comcast-owned MSNBC.

“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal,” Allen said. “He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”

Attwell-Baker is a defendant for her highly visible warp speed trip through D.C.’s revolving door, as the former Republican FCC commissioner seemed to be writing her resignation letter seconds after voting in favor of the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, quickly accepting a high paid lobbying job with the cable company.

“President Obama promised us transparency, hope, and change,” he said. “And what happened in the Obama administration is former commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker voted for the merger of Comcast NBCU and then 90 days later took a much higher paying job with Comcast after granting them the merger. That was betraying the public’s trust as a public service.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/HuffPost Byron Allen 2-27-15.mp4

Watch the HuffPost Live interview with Byron Allen, who reveals who really owns the minority channels Comcast brags about. (7:37)

“President Obama has been bought and paid for. He has taken donations from Comcast. Comcast is his biggest contributor,” he added. “AT&T is one of his biggest contributors. Listen, Obama, your own FTC is investigating AT&T for throttling. How can you even consider them to buy DirectTV when you’re suing them? Is it because you took donations? Yes, Obama. Don’t even think about letting them merge until they settle this lawsuit and that lawsuit.”

Sharpton

Sharpton, in addition to being a regular supporter of Comcast’s various business agendas, also hosts a nightly show on Comcast-owned MSNBC, for which he is paid $750,000 a year.

“AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton’s birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media combined,” Allen said. “He (Sharpton) should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a sick day.”

Apart from Allen’s inflammatory appearances on cable news, his lawsuit does bring to light several important new facts about Comcast’s claims it supports minority-owned channels. Allen’s lawsuit alleges many of those channels are actually secretly owned and controlled by former Comcast executives, private equity firms, and Wall Street banks.

  • Aspire is controlled by Leo Hindery and Leo Hindery is not black. They don’t pay Aspire any subscription fees. Aspire is free,” said Allen.
  • “Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs’ network Revolt TV is controlled by a private equity firm called Highbridge Capital. The person who runs Highbridge Capital is a former Comcast executive named Payne Brown. Highbridge Capital is owned by JP Morgan. On the board of JP Morgan is Steve Burke, the number two executive at Comcast,” said Allen.

These revelations are important because Comcast promised to create and carry minority-owned channels as part of several conditions mandated by regulators to approve the 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal. Allen claims Comcast has broken its commitment and instead created “token front” networks or minority network “window dressing” that feature well-known African-American celebrities that pose as owners of the networks, but in fact they are controlled by white-owned businesses.

The lawsuit claims Comcast carries only one 100% African-American owned and controlled network — the Africa Channel. But dig a little deeper and you find the network is owned by a former Comcast/NBCU executive that played a critical part organizing minority group support for the NBCUniversal buyout.

Comcast and Sharpton’s organization both dismissed the lawsuit as inflammatory and frivolous.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNN Sharpton called black pawn in white game 3-1-15.flv

Byron Allen appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources and called Sharpton “a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game. He’s being used by his white masters at Comcast and AT&T. He just needs to shut up and get in the bleachers.” (7:12)

HissyFitWatch: Bell Loses Net Neutrality Case, Threatens to Bury Complaining Consumers In Legal Fees

The first "bricks of paper" arriving from Bell's attorneys in the case of Bell v. Ordinary Canadian consumers

The first legal “bricks of paper” arriving from Bell’s attorneys in the case of Bell v. Ordinary Canadian consumers arrived at the home of Jean-François Mezei of Pointe-Claire, Que.

A Manitoba university student and consumer groups who won their case against Bell’s preferential treatment of its mobile streaming video service are now being threatened with demands they personally cover Bell’s legal expenses as the phone company appeals the ruling in court.

The dispute involves Bell Mobile TV Service — a $5/mo optional add-on that allows Bell’s mobile customers to stream up to 10 hours of video programming, some of it from Bell-owned television networks like CTV, without it counting against the customer’s usage cap. Each additional hour costs $3. The service prices usage based on time, not data usage, which lets Bell stream very high quality video to customers. Competitors like Netflix do not have this option and their customers are billed based on the amount of data consumed, which is around 800 percent higher than what Bell Mobile TV charges.

University of Manitoba graduate student Benjamin Klass filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 2013 accusing Bell of violating Net Neutrality and creating an anti-competitive marketplace for online video. ​Twelve of the 43 channels available on Mobile TV — including CTV, TSN and The Movie Network — are owned by Bell Media, a subsidiary, like Bell Mobility, of the media behemoth BCE.

Klass alleged the practice was a clear violation of Canada’s laws governing broadcasting: “No Canadian carrier shall, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service or the charging of a rate for it, unjustly discriminate or give an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage.”

The CRTC agreed with Klass and in late January ruled in favor of Klass’ complaint, giving Bell and Quebec-based Vidéotron (which offers a similar service) until the end of April to close them down in their present form.

BCE, the parent of Bell Mobility, told the CBC it was “shocked” by the CRTC’s ruling, suspecting the complaining groups mislead regulators into thinking Bell favored its own content over others.

“There’s a hint here that the government believes Bell Mobile TV delivers only Bell Media content,” spokesman Jason Laszlo said. “They should know we offer mobile TV content from all of Canada’s leading broadcasters in English and French.”

Bell_Mobility logoLaszlo added Bell-owned content only comprises 20% of Bell Mobile TV programming and that the ruling would deprive more than 1.5 million current Bell Mobile TV subscribers from getting the service after the spring deadline to shut it down.

The CRTC and consumer groups argue that is beside the point.

“At its core, this decision isn’t so much about Bell or Vidéotron,” CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said at a breakfast luncheon in London, Ont., in late January. “It’s about all of us and our ability to access content equally and fairly, in an open market that favours innovation and choice. The CRTC always wants to ensure ­— and this decision supports this goal ­— that Canadians have fair and reasonable access to content. It may be tempting for large vertically integrated companies to offer certain perks to their customers. But when the impetus to innovate steps on the toes of the principle of fair and open access to content, we will intervene.”

Consumer group OpenMedia says Bell’s motivation isn’t to create a level playing field or provide customers with more options for online video. It’s about artificially inflating the cost of accessing services like Netflix and other independent video companies that are innovating away from the traditional pay television package.

“Bell is doing everything in its power to make the Internet more like cable TV,” said OpenMedia campaigns manager Josh Tabish. “They want the power to pick and choose what we see by forcing competing services into a more expensive toll lane online.”

Klass (Image: CBC)

Klass (Image: CBC)

Bell’s legal strategy going forward is an homage to the one American wireless companies used for years to avoid Net Neutrality.

Bell Mobility argues that Bell Mobile TV is a broadcasting service, not a telecommunications service and therefore doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Telecommunications Act.

Since the CRTC was not receptive to that argument, Bell is taking the matter to the Federal Court of Appeal, asking it to overturn the CRTC ruling and grant the company court and legal costs paid for by the Canadian consumers that brought the original complaint.

Jean-François Mezei of Pointe-Claire, Que. is among them and has been the unhappy recipient of several parcels containing “bricks of paper” from FedEx he suspects is just the beginning.

Mezei has been tweeting about ongoing developments in the case, and asked Bell, “how come you have no press release bragging about how Bell Mobility is suing individual citizens who participated in [the CRTC complaint]?”

Klass told CBC News he hasn’t yet made up his mind how to respond to the court filing, but admitted it is unnerving.

“In that regard, it really strikes me as a method of intimidation,” he said. “Right off the bat, it has a chilling effect. It appears that Bell is simply pursuing the argument, that it unsuccessfully made to the CRTC, through the court.”

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