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Man Who Says Comcast Got Him Fired From Job Now Seeking $5 Million In Damages for Invasion of Privacy

Comcast-LogoAfter Comcast customer Conal O’Rourke spent more than a year trying to get the cable company to stop overbilling him, Comcast allegedly got their revenge by having O’Rourke fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which just so happened to count Comcast as an important client.

O’Rourke sued Comcast after the company allegedly complained about O’Rourke’s persistence to his boss at the accounting firm. After months of discovery motions surrounding the lawsuit, O’Rourke’s legal team has amended their complaint to add a seventh cause of action — invasion of privacy — after Comcast’s damage control efforts exposed private conversations between O’Rourke and Comcast customer service representatives.

The Consumerist was the first to tell O’Rourke’s story, and it has now learned Comcast allegedly recorded and used O’Rourke’s private conversations with the cable company to further disparage O’Rourke to protect its own image. His attorneys are now asking for additional damages, up from the original $1 million to more than $5 million:

After Conal filed suit, Comcast released a statement to Consumerist and others, explaining that, “As part of this investigation, we have listened to recorded calls between Mr. O’Rourke and our customer service representatives and his treatment of them and his language is totally unspeakable.”

This statement and description of the customer service calls goes too far, says Conal in the revised lawsuit.

“The recorded customer service telephone calls between Mr. O’Rourke and Comcast are private, and are not the subjects of legitimate public concern,” reads the amended complaint. “Comcast’s public disclosure of the existence and nature of Mr. O’Rourke’s private calls to Comcast customer service – which disclosure falsely portrays Mr. O’Rourke as an individual lacking in decency, ethics and integrity – is offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.”

The lawsuit claims that “Comcast’s conduct towards Mr. O’Rourke was wanton, willful and intentional, and committed with malicious intent.”

Comcast apparently intends to drag the case out in court, potentially for years.

“That’s how long hard-fought federal lawsuits are taking in this district these days, and Comcast will be opposing it hard,” Conal’s lawyer Harmeet K. Dhillon told Ars Technica. “I can’t say on the record why it didn’t settle, but you can see from Comcast’s public statements that they want to be ‘vindicated.’”

Sorry, That Competing Online Video/Cord-Cutter Competitor is Dead in the Water When Usage Caps Arrive

Phillip "It isn't so dumb to own the pipes" Dampier

Phillip “It isn’t so dumb to own the pipes” Dampier

In 2006, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre thought his company was at a disadvantage being stuck with “dumb pipes” while Google, Yahoo! (remember them?) and Vonage couldn’t count their earnings fast enough. While AT&T sold consumers plain DSL service, content was king on Wall Street and Whitacre groused it was unfair for bandwidth hogs to use “the pipes for free.” That one statement was the equivalent of throwing a lit match on a hillside in Malibu Canyon and a predictable firestorm over Net Neutrality ensued.

Nine years later, Net Neutrality is now official FCC policy, although the sour grape-eating Republicans will continue to throw Congressional hissyfits along the way. While they rely on tissue-thin evidence to back their assertion the FCC secretly colluded with the Obama Administration to stick it to AT&T and demand its repeal, the future of Net Neutrality will more likely be decided in a courtroom a year or two from now.

Back in 2006 AT&T primarily sold DSL service and was looking for cash to finance its then emerging U-verse platform. AT&T planned to follow cable’s lead, devoting most of the available bandwidth on its fiber to the neighborhood network to cable television programming. Broadband speeds were limited to just under 25Mbps — even less if a large household had multiple television sets in use.

But as the Great Recession arrived and wages stagnated, the cost of what used to be a “must-have” service for most Americans increasingly began to exceed the household budget and the day finally arrived when cable companies started losing more television customers than they were adding. Even worse, cable programming costs continue to spiral upwards and no major cable company can increase cable television rates fast enough to support the usual profit margin the industry counted on.

What Whitacre failed to realize nine years earlier is that broadband providers did not simply own “dumb pipes.” AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Charter and other providers actually occupy two gilded catbird seats, with AT&T and Verizon dominating the wireless Internet business and Comcast, Time Warner, and Charter dominating at-home viewing and wired broadband. Lawmakers who deregulated both industries predicted pitting AT&T against Comcast or Verizon against Time Warner Cable would create competition not seen since Coke vs. Pepsi. Consumers would benefit and world-class service would result.

Instead, Time Warner Cable now sells Verizon Wireless phone service. Verizon gave up on expanding its FiOS network and is selling off its DSL and FiOS business in pieces to focus on its best moneymaker, Verizon Wireless. Comcast in turn threw in the towel on any notion of offering competing cellular service and, in fact, sold its acquired wireless spectrum to Verizon.

PlayStation Vue's lineup

PlayStation Vue’s lineup

The best way to make money is to avoid price wars with your competitors and the evidence shows there is growing peace in America’s Telecom Valley. Comcast can now raise your broadband bill because, for most, Verizon FiOS isn’t an option. AT&T U-verse does not have to hurry speed upgrades to customers if Time Warner Cable delivers no better than 50/5Mbps service in large parts of its service area. Google Fiber remains a minor threat, only available in a handful of cities. AT&T distributed more copies of its press release touting U-verse Gigapower — its gigabit Internet offering — than there are customers qualified to sign up.

Notice that we’ve drifted away from talking about cable television programming. So has the industry, now increasingly dependent on broadband rate increases to make up the difference in revenue they used to take home from their television packages.

But now that the biggest players have a predictable source of revenue, allowing disruptors to further challenge earnings isn’t something your local cable and phone company will allow for long. At the moment, those most likely to cause problems are the growing number of “over the top” streaming video services that do not require a cable television subscription to watch. But they do need broadband — Whitacre’s “dumb pipes” — to reach subscribers. To manage that, services like Apple, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV and their customers must deal with the gatekeepers — AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others.

What Whitacre thought was a disadvantage is now becoming the best thing in the world — manning a toll booth on the only two roads most Americans can use to access online content.

Today, Sony officially launched its Internet-TV service, “PlayStation Vue” in three cities (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia) with a base price of $49.99/month. In includes more than 50 cable networks and in the three launch cities — local network affiliates. In Chicago and Philadelphia, where Comcast provides cable service, potential customers will need to pay $50 a month for Vue and another $64.95 a month for 50Mbps broadband — the least expensive broadband-only tier that is suitable for high quality viewing. Your combined bill for both services is $114.94 a month. Comcast charges $99.99 a month for its double play – 220 TV channels and 50Mbps broadband — almost $15 a month less for its package, and it includes around 150 more channels than Vue.

Comcast explans its new usage caps.

Comcast explains its new usage caps.

But Comcast also has another weapon it is testing is several of its markets — the resumption of usage caps and overlimit fees on its broadband service. Comcast customers in most test markets are given 300GB a month, after which they face overlimit fees of $10 for each additional increment of 50GB. While web browsing and e-mail fit more than comfortably within those caps, watching HD video may not. That leaves a potential Vue customer with a major dilemma. Should they pay $15 a month more for service than they can pay Comcast for a better package -and- chew away their usage allowance using it?

Comcast has yet to figure out how to install a coin collector on top of your television set, so you can watch as much Comcast cable television as you’d like. But watching streaming video could get very expensive if it exceeds a future Comcast usage allowance.

Smaller video packages from providers like Sling TV or the forthcoming Apple streaming service might make more sense, but will still be subject to Comcast’s usage caps if/when they are reintroduced around the country, while Comcast’s own television service will not.

This is why cable and phone companies hold enormous power over their potential competitors, even if Net Neutrality is fiercely enforced. Usage caps and usage-based billing represent an end run around Net Neutrality and both are permitted. The FCC has consistently refused to engage on the issue of broadband usage caps, leaving providers with a useful weapon to deter customers from dropping their television package in favor of an online alternative.

With most Americans having a choice of only one or two “dumb pipes” over which they can reach these services, being an owner of those pipes and getting to set the rates and conditions to use them is a very comfortable (and profitable) place to be.

California Public Utilities Commission Predictably Issues Tentative Approval of Comcast-TWC Merger

cpucWe grant the application of Comcast Corporation (Comcast), Time Warner Cable Inc. (Time Warner), Time Warner Cable Information Services (California), LLC (TWCIS) and Bright House Networks Information Services (California), LLC (Bright House) for approval of the transfer of control of TWCIS and Bright House to Comcast. In addition, we grant the application of Comcast, TWCIS and Charter Fiberlink CA-CCO, LLC (Charter Fiberlink) to transfer a limited number of business customers and associated regulated assets of Charter Fiberlink. — Proposed Decision of California Administrative Law Judge Karl J. Bemesderfer

In a decision widely expected by observers for almost a year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is poised to conditionally approve the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable with dozens of pages of conditions to appease state politicians, concerned commissioners, and interest groups seeking to protect Californians from the competitive impact of what will easily become the state’s largest cable provider, serving 84% of households.

Administrative Law Judge Karl J. Bemesderfer issued his lengthy “proposed decision” in February, acknowledging the deal’s opponents have proved their contention the merger is not in the interests of Californian consumers, but then recommends approving it anyway:

In more concrete terms, the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner reduces the possibilities for content providers to reach the California broadband market. While the FCC’s pending reworked Net Neutrality rules may mitigate some of this effect, the sheer dominance of Comcast’s post-merger position causes us concern.

Parties have made a convincing showing of the anti-competitive consequences that Comcast’s post-merger market power may have on the deployment of broadband in California, and of anti-competitive harms that would occur in California if the merger is consummated. We are also persuaded by evidence of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program’s weak performance in closing the digital divide in California and fulfilling universal service goals, and thus do not view it as a mitigating factor without additional conditions.

While the protesters and intervenors vigorously assert that we should deny the applications outright, they also urge us, in the alternative, to impose conditions ameliorating the potential harms should we decide that such conditions are within our powers and sufficient to render the resulting transaction not adverse to the public interest.

While we are troubled by the protesters’ and intervenors’ many examples of potential harms that may flow from the merger, we believe that those harms may be mitigated by the imposition of conditions on our approval consistent with our powers under state and federal law.

comcast twcBemesderfer proposes a lengthy list of conditions the cable giant must meet for at least five years after merging, including offering discounted Internet service programs, improve customer service, provide free backup batteries for Comcast phone service, and promise it will stop lobbying against community broadband projects.

But the judge said nothing about Comcast’s runaway rate increases likely in a de facto monopoly environment, its own vice president’s prediction that all Comcast broadband customers will be enrolled in a usage-based billing scheme within five years, and lacks specificity explaining the enforcement measures the CPUC will take against Comcast if it fails to meet the commission’s conditions.

The five-member commission could take up Bemesderfer’s recommendations as early as the end of this month, but is more likely to postpone consideration until later this spring. The commission can adopt, change, or discard Bemesderfer’s recommendations.

Accusations that the CPUC has grown too cozy with the companies it regulates only grew louder after consumer groups complained Bemesderfer bent over backwards trying to get Comcast’s merger deal closer to the concept of “the public interest.” For them, it isn’t nearly close enough.

“To read the recent 100-plus-page decision from the CPUC, you wouldn’t think this proposed merger is good for anyone,” writes Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance, which opposes the deal. “The regulator approved the merger with more than two dozen conditions to mitigate the bad impacts on Californians.”

Rosenberg hints the CPUC is ill-equipped to effectively watch over a multi-billion dollar telecom giant like Comcast. By proposing an ambitious set of requirements the CPUC cannot possibly enforce or defend in court with its current limited budget. Taxpayers may have to dig deep to cover legal bills likely to pile up in Sacramento if Comcast decides to rid itself of CPUC meddling in the courts. Comcast has already announced strenuous objections to at least 20 of the 25 conditions Bemesderfer recommends imposing.

Image courtesy: cobalt123

Comcast to California: Hey, slow down a moment. We don’t like your pre-conditions.

Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin chronicles Comcast’s objections in a convenient clickable format:

The table of contents of Comcast’s 46-page report gives a sense of just how much the cable company disagrees with California’s proposed conditions. Here are the main bullet points as written in Comcast’s argument; we’ve added hyperlinks and additional text in italics to further explain the requirements and Comcast’s objections:

The proposed decision improperly expands the scope of the proceeding beyond the commission’s jurisdiction and authority.

  • The proposed decision would impose sweeping common carrier utility type regulation on the merged entity’s broadband and VoIP services in derogation of federal and state law.
  • Other conditions in the proposed decision exceed the commission’s authority or are otherwise unlawful. [According to Comcast, these conditions include requirements related to Lifeline phone service, diversity, website design standards, backup batteries, video programming, non-interference with competing voice services, buildout requirements, opposition to municipal broadband projects, and privacy complaints.]

The proposed decision adopts intervenors’ [merger opponents] flawed analyses and claims regarding market share and competition.

  • The transaction will not increase market power or reduce consumer choice.
  • The FCC’s new definition of “advanced telecommunications capability” has no relevance to this proceeding. [The Federal Communications Commission recently said that Internet service must provide at least 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload to qualify as broadband or “advanced telecommunications capability.” That decision increased Comcast’s “broadband” market share to 56 percent nationwide.]
  • Concerns regarding future overbuilding are baseless and unsupported by the record. [The question here is whether Comcast and Time Warner Cable would ever compete against each other directly if they cannot merge.]
  • The transaction presents no risk to edge providers [companies that deliver content and applications over the Internet], the highly competitive internet backbone, or consumers’ access to broadband content.

Other factual findings in the proposed decision are invalid and do not support the suggested conditions.

  • TWC is not a “policy competitor” to Comcast. [The California judge’s proposal said TWC is a “policy competitor” to Comcast because it has different positions and business models. “For example, Time Warner has applied to the Commission to offer Lifeline as a tariffed service, while Comcast has not,” the judge wrote.]
  • Mandatory diversity measures are unnecessary. [Comcast says California’s requirements amount to mandatory race-based quotas that violate state law and the US Constitution.]
  • Concerns regarding Comcast’s battery backup program and other network safety issues are based on inaccurate assertions.
  • The transaction will not harm wholesale offerings.
  • Internet Essentials is successful by any objective metric and the program’s extension to TWC and Charter areas will provide substantial public interest benefits. [Internet Essentials is a low-cost Internet service for the poor that Comcast was required to create in exchange for approval of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal. California wants Comcast to expand program eligibility further than Comcast is willing to. Comcast objects to a requirement to double download speeds from 5Mbps to 10Mbps. California also wants Comcast to achieve a 45 percent adoption rate among eligible consumers, which Comcast says is an unrealistic goal.]
  • The proposed decision imposes unlawful rate and performance regulations based on inaccurate assumptions about TWC services and is in all events unjustified. [California wants Comcast to offer standalone broadband service for five years at prices not exceeding those charged by Time Warner Cable.]
  • The proposed decision adopts incorrect data regarding Comcast’s quality of service and network safety and reliability.
  • The “benchmark” competition theory adopted in the proposed decision is refuted by the record evidence. [California proposes an annual report requirement because the merger would eliminate the commission’s ability to compare reliability, customer service, prices, and service offerings of Comcast and TWC.]
  • Other suggested conditions are unauthorized and unnecessary. [This section further covers a requirement to not interfere with voice services. Comcast says “it is unnecessary because Comcast does not interfere with voice services or degrade customers’ ability to complete calls.” This section also addresses a website accessibility requirement, which Comcast says is unnecessary because the company “already offers a comprehensive and user-friendly website that benchmarks to best practices for website accessibility.”]

Rosenberg argues a merger like Comcast and Time Warner Cable should have been easy to reject just on the basis of its size and scope.

“Economists use a scale called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index to measure the level of concentration in a market,” Rosenberg said. “Anything with an HHI increase of more than 200 points is likely to enhance market power. The HHI increase for the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable is a 4,927-point increase in the fixed broadband market.”

In plain English, “California customers have nowhere to run,” Rosenberg writes. “If they had a choice, many of Comcast’s customers wouldn’t be their customers. If the merger with Time Warner goes through, that choice is about to get a whole lot worse.”

Instead of accommodating a merger proposal that seems clearly the opposite of the public interest, Rosenberg suggest an easier alternative.

“If something takes two dozen onerous conditions to prevent significant damage, then maybe the public is better off without it,” Rosenberg writes. “On March 26, the commission will vote on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. A million conditions can’t make this a good enough deal. There comes a time to just say no.”

Comcast: Bill First, Ask Questions Later (or Never); Attorney Pelted With Collection Letters/Calls for Non-Service

comcast collectionsA Pennsylvania attorney that didn’t pay his $215 Comcast bill was hounded by Comcast’s collections crew despite never getting cable service at his new address.

Wayne resident Edmond Tiryak would seem like a poor target for cable company harassment. He’s a lawyer after all. But even he withered after a month of unrelenting phone calls and letters demanding he pay his bill for non-service.

Tiryak had a peaceful 25-year relationship with Comcast until he moved last October. After three weeks of no-show appointments, waits on hold of up to 40 minutes and lots of excuses, Comcast never bothered to hook up service at his new address. But that didn’t stop the cable company from billing Tiryak $215 for his first month, in advance.

Calling Comcast to the debate the veracity of the bill turned out to be an exercise in futility. Comcast’s offshore call center insists they know best — Tiryak has cable service because the computer says he does. The fact Tiryak lives at the address and claims he doesn’t is beside the point. The only important matter is how Tiryak would like to pay – Visa, Mastercard, Discover? The fact he still doesn’t have service is, well, incidental.

A reasonable person would refuse to pay and insist on an investigation by a supervisor to verify Comcast is MIA at the Tiryak residence. But Comcast has a collections department that could wear down Vladimir Putin and they know how to use it.

Two months later, the attorney pleaded with Inquirer business columnist Jeff Gelles to help get Comcast off his back.

“By the time he contacted me in January, Tiryak had given up in frustration and was just fighting to get the $215 bill erased,” Gelles wrote. “Even four letters to Comcast’s president hadn’t done the trick.”

Some quick media attention is an excellent way to get Comcast’s attention, at least for a little while, and Tiryak was initially pleased to report the charges had been zeroed out.

Phillip "Comcast channels Genghis Khan" Dampier

Phillip “Comcast channels Genghis Khan” Dampier

But then Comcast’s collections department changed their mind after dreaming about that $215 in lost revenue, and started calling Tiryak again.

Gelles forwarded on the complaint about the resumed harassment collection calls to Comcast and received yet another promise all would be made right.

“It’s astonishing to me that they would take a really good customer, who’s been with them 25 years, and basically just treat me as if I’m nothing – as if I’m useless to them,” Tiryak told Gelles.

A long-standing pattern of Comcast customer complaints suggests Tiryak should not be surprised.

Gelles gently reminded readers in Comcast’s hometown that the free market works best when customers have an alternative when stuck in an abusive relationship with the cable company. But deregulated capitalism hands out gold stars for monopoly building consolidation. Tiryak, like so many others, landed on Comcast’s Park Place and now they have to pay.

The solution to the chronic dyspepsia resulting from repeated exposure to Comcast isn’t Verizon, which has capitulated on further expansion of its competing FiOS fiber to the home service to focus on counting Verizon Wireless coin. Instead of phantom competition that never arrives, the FCC’s recent decision to provide checks and balances for cocky, deregulated behemoth cable companies like Comcast might be the best answer for now.

Despite industry claims that an apocalypse would result from applying any “utility-style” regulation like that used to keep AT&T in check during its monopoly years, consumer advocates suggest Comcast’s passive-aggressive behavior could be managed with one phone call to a state regulator.

Geldes asked the former director of consumer services for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission about how the agency would handle Tiryak’s complaint, if it were empowered to do so:

Under PUC rules, he says, after a utility investigates a dispute, it has to ask whether the consumer is satisfied. “If the customer says no, the company is required to give the PUC’s number for making an informal complaint,” he says. That is usually enough to solve most issues, he says. The agency also monitors nagging problems like long hold times for calls and occasionally intervenes.

Telephone companies used to dread the prospect of dealing with a customer complaint escalated to the New York Public Service Commission. Repair crews were often dispatched within an hour and generous service credits and apologies were routine. But the impact lived on for years after that. Customer service agents looking up account information on a customer who previously complained to the PSC about anything would find their computer terminal lit up like a Christmas tree, alerting them they were dealing with a customer that doesn’t play.

Recalling that era makes one wonder if regulating the biggest bad boys on the block — cable companies running wild — might not be such a bad idea after all.

Nothing else has worked.

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)

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