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Comcast, Charter Divide Up Time Warner Cable Customers – Find Out Who Will Serve You

comcast twcIf you are a Time Warner Cable customer, one of four things will happen by this time next year:

  1. You will still be a Time Warner Cable customer if regulators shoot down its merger with Comcast;
  2. You will be a Comcast customer;
  3. You will be a Charter Communications customer;
  4. You will be served by a brand new cable company temporarily dubbed “SpinCo,” owned partly by Comcast but managed by Charter.

Comcast and Charter this week reached an agreement on how to handle the 3.9 million Time Warner Cable customers Comcast intends to spin-off to keep its total subscriber numbers at a level they believe will appease regulators. The transaction will affect Time Warner customers in the midwest the most, particularly former Insight Cable customers.

divest

Charter Communications will say goodbye to customers in California, New England, northern Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and parts of Tennessee. Most of those customers will now be served by Comcast. Among the regions affected: New York, Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Northern/Southern California, and Atlanta.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WISN Milwaukee First Comcast Now Charter 4-28-14.flv

WISN in Milwaukee reports Time Warner Cable customers there were just getting used to the idea of Comcast and they are not happy service will be provided by Charter Communications instead. (2:03)

Comcast and Time Warner Cable will in turn give up many of its cable systems in the midwest, either transferring them to Charter or the “SpinCo” venture managed by Charter.

twc charterCharter will take over directly in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Indiana and Alabama.

If you are a Comcast or Time Warner Cable customer next to a current Charter service area in Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky or Wisconsin, chances are you will end up a subscriber of the “SpinCo” venture. That will prove a distinction without much difference to customers, because Charter will manage the day-to-day operations of the new cable company and has the right to eventually acquire it outright.

With the exception of a small handful of systems in western sections of Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, all of New England, New York, and the mid-Atlantic region will be serviced by Comcast.

With the exception of Cablevision in eastern New York, Comcast will be the dominant cable provider across New York State from Manhattan to Buffalo.

With the exception of Cablevision in eastern New York, Comcast will be the dominant cable provider across New York State from Manhattan to Buffalo.

The agreement also includes a commitment by Charter to drop its opposition to the Time Warner Cable/Comcast merger.

“Today’s announcement from Comcast would, in essence, lead to the creation of a three-company cable cartel. Masquerading as subscriber divestitures, the agreement with Charter brings together the three largest cable providers, who account for 38% of cable subscribers and 45% of Internet subscribers,” the Writers Guild of America West said in a statement. “The decision of these three powerful companies to divide markets and share ownership of subscribers through a new publicly traded corporation is unprecedented and adds to the mounting evidence against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.”

The transaction is expected to be tax-free and will happen in three stages:

  • Asset Sale: Charter acquires systems serving around 1.4 million former TWC customers for an estimated $7.3 billion in cash;
  • Asset Transfer: Charter and Comcast transfer assets in a tax-free exchange involving around 1.6 million former TWC customers and about 1.6 million Charter customers;
  • Asset Spin-off: Comcast will spin-off a new entity (“SpinCo”) composed of cable systems serving around 2.5 million Comcast customers to its shareholders, with Charter acquiring close to 33% of the equity of SpinCo in exchange for 13% of the equity of a new holding company of Charter.

Charter Communications would become the nation’s second largest cable operator if the deal is approved, owning outright systems with an estimated 5.7 million video customers and managing an extra 2.5 million SpinCo customers, together totaling more than 8.2 million video customers.

Comcast wanted the deal done quickly so it could begin lobbying Washington and other regulators with detailed divestiture plans to keep Comcast’s total subscribers to less than 30% of the national cable market.

Although Comcast will face tough competition in Time Warner Cable territories also served by Verizon FiOS, Charter and its managed SpinCo will compete primarily with AT&T U-verse. Just 1% of Charter’s territory is expected to see competition from Verizon’s fiber network.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Divesting Comcast Subs 4-28-14.flv

Comcast agreed to divest 3.9 million customers to Charter Communications, potentially helping to ease the approval process for its merger with Time Warner Cable. Media Morph Chairman and Chief Strategist Shahid Khan and Bloomberg’s Paul Sweeney speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.” (6:23)

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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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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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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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The Washington Post’s Delusional Support of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Debunked

corporatewelfareIf you have started to confuse the Washington Post editorial page with that of the Wall Street Journal, you are not alone.

Under the stewardship of Fred Hiatt, WaPo’s editorial opinions have grown increasingly anti-consumer and pro-corporate at home and decidedly neoconservative abroad.

It’s the same newspaper that wholeheartedly supported the merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal in 2010. Let’s check whether they called that one right:

Entities that compete with NBC-owned cable channels fear that Comcast will relegate them to hard-to-find channel locations. Consumer advocates warn that Comcast will use its newfound power to raise subscription rates and stifle new voices on television and the Internet.

The same newspaper reported last week that Comcast refused to let Back9Network, a golf oriented network in direct competition with Comcast-owned Golf Channel, on its cable systems.

For years, Bloomberg TV — in direct competition with Comcast-owned CNBC — has been stuck in Channel Siberia, in some areas like Chicago dumped between Comcast’s promotional “barker” channel and “Leased Access.” CNBC enjoys Ch. 29, certain to attract more viewers than Bloomberg’s Ch. 102.

As Stop the Cap! reported yesterday, no cable company raises cable television rates more than Comcast, blaming programming rate increases that in several cases originate with Comcast-owned cable networks.

Regulators should scrutinize the proposed merger but should be skeptical of the critics’ claims. [...] Advocacy groups have been poor prognosticators of the effects of large media mergers.

The Washington Post’s editorial accuracy record has more than a few blemishes, from its 2003 declaration Colin Powell’s “evidence” of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was “irrefutable,” to suggestions that a wedding of Comcast and NBC Universal wouldn’t hurt anyone because the FCC was ready to manage any problems without pesky mandates or overbearing pre-conditions.

The FCC already requires cable operators to deal fairly with competitors. Its rules would require Comcast to give competitors access to NBC content on “reasonable” and “non-discriminatory” terms. The company would also be required to negotiate in good faith about carrying non-NBC channels. Competitors who believed that they were harmed by unfair dealing could have their complaints adjudicated by the agency. Critics of the Comcast-NBCU merger claim that these mechanisms are ineffective and slow. But the breakdown of the complaint system should not be used as an excuse to impose onerous conditions on one company. Instead, critics should push for an overhaul of the system.

The Bloomberg case, now three years old, remains unresolved. That should tell readers something about just how quickly the FCC gets around to dealing with these kinds of complaints. Comcast has been able to argue its decision to bury Bloomberg and keep Back9Network off its cable systems are examples of ‘good faith, reasonable decision-making that doesn’t discriminate.’ It sued to quash Net Neutrality, critical for online video competition, and won.

The Post editorial amusingly insists that Comcast’s merger plans should not be interrupted because of an ineffective complaint system that can’t or won’t promptly deal with Comcast’s ongoing abuse of the very non-discriminatory rules the editors declare as a reason to support the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger.

Many of the same fears of domination and manipulation were raised with the 2001 merger of AOL and TimeWarner; that megadeal crumbled after a few years. Comcast and GE, which will retain a 49 percent stake in NBCU, should be allowed to proceed, and regulators should do their jobs and watch the newly formed company carefully.

Phillip "The Post's Naivete is Showing" Dampier

Phillip “The Post’s Naivete is Showing” Dampier

The 2001 merger of AOL and Time Warner came at the last gasp of the dot.com boom. As the New York Times noted, “In May of 2000, the dot.com bubble began to burst and online advertising began to slow, making it difficult for AOL to meet the financial forecasts on which the deal was based. The world began moving quickly to high-speed Internet access, putting AOL’s ubiquitous dial-up service in jeopardy.”

The final unraveling of AOL Time Warner came about because the combined company, highly dependent on AOL (and its stock value), could not sustain its business model when nobody could figure out how to get paid for content in the online world. AOL’s dial-up Internet access business was also rapidly in decline as the country started moving towards broadband.

“The consumer has access to everything and now it’s going to be on a handheld device, so what I call the rolling thunder of the Internet started actually to eat its own, which was AOL,” writes the Times. “AOL was the Google of its time. It was how you got to the Internet, but it was using some old media business ideas that were undone by the Internet itself, and that’s why Google came along.”

The same sad story is not true for Comcast or Time Warner Cable (which was spun off from Time Warner, Inc. as an independent company as part of a restructuring in 2009.)

Both cable companies are in a better place than AOL-Time Warner:

  • AOL relied on dial-up and reseller access to some broadband providers — neither sufficiently lucrative to sustain AOL’s dot.com-days value. Comcast/TWC own their own broadband networks;
  • Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse are the only significant multi-city broadband competitors for the cable industry. U-verse remains challenged by its technological limitations and Verizon stopped expanding FiOS. Google Fiber has a totally insignificant market share and is likely to stay that way for several years. Google Fiber provides no competition in the northeast where Comcast and Time Warner Cable dominate;
  • Comcast and Time Warner Cable both oppose community-owned broadband competition and Time Warner has successfully managed to push legislation virtually banning network expansion in several states;
  • Comcast will both own and control the pipes and a significant amount of the content that crosses its broadband networks. At the time of the AOL-Time Warner merger, online video competition did not exist in a meaningful way.
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Nobody Raises Rates Like Comcast: Since 2009 Up 68% for Basic, 21% for Expanded Basic Cable

comcast twcDespite arguing its merger with Time Warner Cable would result in greater discounts for cable programming, America’s largest cable company Comcast is already receiving the best volume discounts available but is not passing the savings on to customers.

No major cable operator raised cable television rates more than Comcast, according to a new study from Free Press. Since 2009, Comcast jacked up prices on its broadcast basic television tier by 68 percent. Its more popular expanded basic cable service saw rate hikes amounting to 21 percent over the same time.

In contrast, Time Warner Cable actually cut rates for broadcast basic cable by 2.5% and raised expanded basic prices by 17 percent.

Comcast’s top lobbyist David Cohen has made clear the company’s prices are going to keep rising even if the merger is approved. That is likely to give Time Warner Cable customers sticker shock if Comcast takes over. Comcast is likely to pass whatever cost savings it realizes from the merger back to shareholders, not to customers.

free_press_comcast_twc_video_price_hikes

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Comcast’s Festival of Nonsense Performed for Senate Judiciary Committee

Phillip "The circus is in town" Dampier

Phillip “The circus is in town” Dampier

Yesterday afternoon I got to experience both the pain of having a tooth pulled and watch Comcast and Time Warner Cable defend its merger for more than three hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Festival of Nonsense from Comcast’s top lobbyist David Cohen and Time Warner Cable’s chief financial officer Arthur Minson hurt more.

Despite the $45 billion dollar deal, the real powers that be couldn’t be bothered to turn up at the hearing. Comcast’s chief executive was nowhere to be found — perhaps he was playing golf with President Obama again. Comcast’s top lobbyist David Cohen showed up instead, wearing an outfit that looked like it was stuffed with cash waiting to fall from his pockets into the hands of his “friends” on Capitol Hill. Cohen is a well-known Democratic money bundler who raised $1.44 million for the president’s reelection campaign in 2011 and 2012, and $2.22 million since 2007. (Obama spent time in Cohen’s Philadelphia home as well, part of a DNC fundraising party.)

Perhaps Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus was unavailable because he was too busy counting the $8.52 million he was paid before agreeing to sell the company. Don’t expect him at the next hearing either, because he is shopping for a bigger safe to hold the $80 million he will receive for agreeing to change Time Warner Cable’s name to Comcast.

The other usual suspects were also missing in action. Not a peep from the major networks or cable programmers at the hearing. Instead, the Senate endured a guy with a golf channel nobody ever heard of using the hearing to try to get his calls returned by Time Warner and a wireless provider who believes his technology is faster than fiber. Sure it is.

Brought to you in part by America's cable industry.

Brought to you in part by America’s cable industry.

I suppose it’s also worth mentioning Christopher Yoo – Comcast’s intellectual sock puppet straight out of the cable company’s home town of Philadelphia. He serves at the pleasure of the “Center for Technology, Innovation & Competition” (cough) at the University of Pennsylvania. The “center” is financially supported by the cable industry. David Cohen just happens (by sheer coincidence) to chair the university’s Board of Trustees. Yoo’s testimony could be boiled down to a nod in Cohen’s direction with an affirming, “whatever he said.”

The Cohen and Minson Comedy Hour began with opening statements extolling the virtues of supersizing Comzilla, with dubious claims about its benefits for consumers.

Without laughing, read the following out loud:

“We welcome this opportunity to discuss the proposed transaction between Comcast Corporation (“Comcast”) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (“TWC”), and the substantial and multiple pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and public interest benefits that it will generate, including through competitive entry in segments neither company today can meaningfully serve on its own,” the two companies wrote in their joint opening statement.

Cohen

Cohen

“Comcast and TWC do not compete for customers in any market – either for broadband, video, or voice services. The transaction will not reduce competition or consumer choice at all. Comcast and TWC serve separate and distinct geographic areas. This simple but critically important fact has been lost on many who would criticize our transaction, but it cannot be ignored – competition simply will not be reduced. Rather, the transaction will enhance competition in key market segments, including advanced business services and advertising.”

To emphasize just how little this merger will impact the current state of non-competition in the broadband marketplace, Comcast repeatedly emphasized you can’t subscribe to a competing cable company today and still won’t tomorrow:

“Consumers in Comcast’s territories cannot subscribe to TWC for broadband, video, or phone services. And TWC customers cannot switch to Comcast. For that reason, this is not a horizontal transaction under merger review standards, and there will be no reduction in competition or consumer choice,” said the written statement.

In other words, since there was no competition between cable companies before, making sure consumers still don’t have a choice is not anti-competitive.

Watch the entire hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

(The hearing begins at the 24 minute mark.)

Here are some other “benefits” promised by Cohen and Minson:

Post-transaction, Comcast intends to make substantial incremental upgrades to TWC’s systems to migrate them to all-digital, freeing up bandwidth to deliver greater speeds. For example, Comcast typically bonds 8 QAM channels together in its systems, and Comcast’s most popular broadband service tier offers speeds of 25/5Mbps upstream across its footprint. In comparison, TWC bonds 4 QAM channels in nearly half of its systems, and its most commonly purchased service tier offers speeds of 15/1Mbps. Comcast’s fastest residential broadband tier offers speeds of 505/100Mbps; TWC’s current top speeds are 100/5Mbps. Comcast’s investments in the TWC systems will also improve network reliability, network security, and convenience to TWC customers.

Minson

Minson

Of course, nothing prevented either company from boosting speeds without a $45 billion merger deal. In fact, Comcast is doing exactly that this week. Marcus’ own revival plan for TWC, dubbed TWC Maxx, promised Time Warner Cable customers would get even faster speeds than Comcast offers most of its customers.

Time Warner Cable now advertises it does not have usage caps on broadband. Comcast cannot say the same, although it tries very hard to tapdance around the matter by calling the 300GB monthly cap spreading into more and more Comcast territories a “data threshold.”

Comcast’s speed upgrades for TWC customers are likely to come with a big catch — an arbitrary usage allowance that limits their usefulness. By the way, that 505Mbps service is available only from Comcast’s extremely limited fiber network that the overwhelming majority of customers cannot get.

The transaction will similarly speed the availability of advanced Wi-Fi equipment in consumers’ homes. The quality of broadband service depends not only on the “last-mile” infrastructure but also the delivery of the signal over the last few yards. Comcast has led the entire broadband industry in rolling out advanced gateway Wi-Fi routers to approximately 8 million households and small businesses, giving these customers faster speeds (up to 270 Mbps downstream as compared to 85 Mbps downstream from the prior generation devices) and better performance over their home and business wireless networks. In contrast, TWC only recently began deploying advanced in-home Wi-Fi routers. With the greater purchasing power and economies of scale resulting from the transaction, Comcast can not only offer TWC customers access to today’s best routers, but also invest in and deploy next-generation router technologies for all of the combined company’s customers.

comcast twcComcast doesn’t like to mention that “advanced Wi-Fi” equipment costs customers $8 a month… forever. Comcast is also using it to boost its own Wi-Fi service by sharing it with the neighbors. This merger “benefit” will cost customers almost $100 a year. Customers can do better buying their own equipment and don’t need a merger to make that decision.

The transaction will give Comcast the geographic reach, economies of scale, customer density, and return on investment needed to massively expand Wi-Fi hotspots across the combined company’s footprint, including in the Midwest, South, and West, particularly in areas like Cleveland/Pittsburgh, the Carolinas, Texas, and California, where there will be greater density and clustering of systems. Our goal is to provide greater Wi-Fi availability that allows the combined company’s customers to access the Internet in more places, more conveniently, and at no additional charge.

Your usage allowance will likely apply to this “free Wi-Fi” that most customers cannot access because they live in an area where neither company offers it now and likely won’t anytime soon.

The transaction will also enable Comcast to invest in network expansions and last-mile improvements that provide an even stronger foundation for innovative applications, including education, healthcare, the delivery of government services, and home security and energy management. And with greater coverage and density of systems, Comcast will also have the ability and incentive to build out and make available interconnection points in more geographic regions. This will be especially beneficial to companies like Google, Netflix, and Amazon, which aggregate massive data traffic when they deliver their own and others’ services to consumers.

internet essentialsFor the right price. Nothing precluded Comcast or Time Warner Cable from investing some of their lush profits into improvements for customers. But why bother when your only serious competitor is usually DSL. Investment in broadband networks has declined for years in favor of profit-taking. Making Comcast bigger introduces no new market forces that would provoke it to improve service. In fact, Comcast’s massive size and reach would likely deter would-be competitors from entering a market where Comcast can use predatory pricing and retention offers to keep customers from switching.

Helping people successfully cross the digital divide requires ongoing outreach. To increase awareness of the Internet Essentials program, Comcast has made significant and sustained efforts within local communities. To date, those outreach efforts have included:

  • Distributing over 33 million free brochures to school districts and community partners for (available in 14 different languages).
  • Broadcasting more than 3.6 million public service announcements with a combined value of nearly $48 million.
  • Forging more than 8,000 partnerships with community-based organizations, government agencies, and elected officials at all levels of government.

Cohen does not mention the company planned to offer Internet Essentials earlier than it did, but held it back for political reasons.

“I held back because I knew it may be the type of voluntary commitment that would be attractive to the chairman” of the Federal Communications Commission, Cohen said in a 2012 interview. Comcast’s generosity was limited. It specifically designed its discount Internet program to make it difficult to qualify and protect its regular-priced broadband offerings. The goodwill from handing out Comcast sales brochures and getting free exposure in the media offers little to customers. Comcast also has a way of getting the community-based organizations it “partners” with to advocate for Comcast’s business interests.

"Sometimes we need a kick in the butt." -- Cohen

“Sometimes we need a kick in the butt.” — Cohen

If only the government got out of the way and approve the merger, Comcast will improve on its already amazing customer service:

Improving the customer experience is a top priority at Comcast. We are investing billions of dollars in our network infrastructure and are developing innovative products and features to make it easier and more convenient for our customers to interact with us. While our satisfaction results are beginning to rise, we know we still have work to do and are laser-focused on continuing to improve our customers’ experiences in a number of ways.  Comcast has improved its customer satisfaction ratings significantly. Since 2010, Comcast has increased its J.D. Power’s Overall Satisfaction score by nearly 100 points as a video provider, and close to 80 points in High Speed Data – more than any other provider in our industry during the same period.

Twice nothing is still nothing. Cohen even admitted at the hearing Comcast’s progress at improving customer service is not as rosy as his written testimony might suggest.

“It bothers us we have so much trouble delivering high quality of service to customers on a regular basis,” Cohen said. “Sometimes, we need a kick in the butt.”

That has never worked before. Comcast has kicked its customers around since at least 2007 when it also promised major customer service improvements that turned out to be figments of a press release. Comcast’s “laser-focused” efforts to improve instead won it the 2014 Consumerist Worst Company in America award this week and more than 100,000 consumers signing petitions vehemently opposing the merger.

Comcast has a long record of improving consumers’ online experiences and working cooperatively with other companies on interconnection, peering and transit.

bufferingJust ask any Comcast customer about their Netflix viewing experience lately and how it took a checkbook to improve matters. Ask any online video competitor whether Comcast is a good neighbor when it exempts its own video traffic from its “usage threshold” while making sure to count competitors’ traffic against it.

Comcast also likes to suggest Americans are awash in competitive options for broadband service. Why there is DSL, satellite broadband, fiber, wireless Internet, public libraries, and books.

In fact, Comcast’s filing points to various “competitors” that don’t even exist yet, if they ever will. Comcast suggests Google Fiber is popping up everywhere, despite the fact Google announced it was delaying its fiber rollout in Austin, and most of its latest expansion plans lack firm commitments to deploy and are framed only in the context of opening a dialogue with targeted communities.

Satellite Internet speeds are severely limited and usage-capped. The same is true for exorbitantly expensive mobile broadband. Comparing a $40 unlimited broadband offering from Time Warner Cable to Verizon Wireless’ 4GB for $50 mobile wireless Internet package is silly.

Comcast characterizes the competitive telecom marketplace as a veritable dogfight, but it looks a lot more like a well-executed dog and pony show. Just how rabid are these dogs?

  • Verizon’s pit bull zeal to compete has more bark than bite. Verizon Wireless customers can sign up for Comcast or Time Warner Cable service in Verizon stores (woof);
  • Comcast’s rottweiler isn’t supposed to get along well with others, but it manages pretty well pitching Verizon Wireless service (grrr).

An hour into the hearing, it was clear there was some bipartisan discomfort with the merger, with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) leading the charge with pointed questions cutting through Comcast’s government relations fluff.

“I’m against this deal,” Franken concluded. “My concern is that as Comcast continues to get bigger, you’ll have even more power to exercise that leverage — to squeeze consumers.”

Like an orange.

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Time Warner Cable Wins Cheap Hydropower from New York State for Its Buffalo Call Center

timewarner twcTime Warner Cable is one of three New York businesses that are the latest to be awarded almost 1 megawatt of inexpensive hydropower under the state’s ReCharge New York program.

The cable company was allocated 176 kilowatts of electricity for its new call center in Buffalo from the Power Authority’s hydroelectric plants in Lewiston and Massena, and from the open market. In return, it plans to add 152 new jobs in Buffalo.

The program is designed to encourage businesses to increase investment in New York communities. Most of the inexpensive power awarded recently went to Pratt and Whitney in Middletown in the Hudson region and to six businesses on Long Island.

“ReCharge NY is one of the strongest tools in the Empire State’s economic development arsenal,” Governor Cuomo said. “Low-cost power for businesses has helped create thousands of high-impact jobs in local communities, and its ripple effect of ReCharge NY can be felt statewide. Innovative initiatives like ReCharge NY continue to establish New York as a great place for businesses to thrive and grow.”

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Time Warner Cable Releases Video Showing Broadband Upgrades Underway in LA, NYC

twcmaxDespite its pending merger with Comcast, Time Warner Cable is still promising to boost broadband speeds by the end of this year in New York City and Los Angeles.

The TWC Maxx program was announced before the merger, but Time Warner says it is still going ahead with upgrades and produced a video showing some of the behind-the-scenes work in Los Angeles.

Although the video doesn’t show much more than people pointing at equipment displays and maintaining equipment racks, it does include an interview about what Time Warner is doing to prepare for infrastructure upgrades serious enough to need a bigger air conditioner for the building.

Time Warner does warn customers they may experience brief service interruptions as a result of the work.

When complete, Time Warner Cable customers in both cities will have all-digital television service and major broadband speed upgrades:

 

Current Mbps Speeds Up to

New Mbps Speeds Up to

Everyday Low Price   Customers

2/1

3/1

Basic Customers

3/1

10/1

Standard Customers

15/1

50/5

Turbo Customers

20/2

100/10

Extreme Customers

30/5

200/20

Ultimate Customers

50/5

300/20

These upgrades may be modified if/when Comcast takes over, and Time Warner has not disclosed which cities will get the upgrades next.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/TWC Behind The Scenes at a Los Angeles Hub Time Warner Cable 3-26-14.flv

Jay Gormley, a former reporter for KTVT in Dallas now working for Time Warner Cable takes customers on a tour of a Los Angeles Time Warner Cable hub slated to get service upgrades. (2:01)

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New York Regulators Could Derail Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Gov. Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo

New York State is hardly overwhelmed with excitement over the merger of the nation’s largest and second-largest cable operators and is taking steps to give regulators enough power to derail the merger.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided the state will not be a bystander as the $45 billion deal is reviewed by federal regulators and is seeking new powers for the state’s Public Service Commission that could force Comcast and Time Warner Cable to prove their merger is pro-consumer.

The New York Post reports the new approach would be the opposite of current rules that force the PSC to carry the burden of proof that a deal hurts the public interest.

“[The proposed changes] are very important arrangements, and the state has a valid role in making sure that the consumer is protected,” Cuomo said at the State Museum in Albany.

A source told the newspaper the rules change “could essentially kill the deal.”

comcast twcSince the federal government deregulated the cable industry in the 1990s, state and local officials have had little oversight over cable service and pricing, but in many states regulators still have a voice in mergers and other business deals.

The Cuomo Administration denied the rule changes were specifically aimed at Comcast, claiming that the state was simply mirroring the type of regulations impacting gas and oil companies doing business in New York.

If the deal fails to win approval in New York, it would mean Comcast could not assume control of Time Warner Cable’s lucrative franchises in New York City and most of upstate New York. Analysts speculate Comcast is especially interested in aligning its operations in northern New Jersey with those of Time Warner Cable in New York — both part of the largest television market in the country.

nys pscSo far, Comcast does not seem concerned about Cuomo’s proposal.

“We are confident that the pro-competitive, pro-consumer benefits like faster Internet speeds and improved video options resulting from the transaction are compelling and will result in approval from the state,” Comcast said in a statement, adding that it looks forward to “presenting the multiple consumer benefits” of the deal for New Yorkers.

Reuters reports Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania — home state for Comcast’s corporate headquarters — will also be taking a closer look at the merger.

Florida will be coordinating with U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust officials to review the deal.

“We are part of a multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction along with the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division,” the Florida attorney general’s office said in an email.

Indiana is studying the impact of the merger on its state, and Pennsylvania promised an “independent review.”

The attorneys general group is focused on broadband instead of cable television in assessing the $45.2 billion deal, according to a source familiar with the effort who was not authorized to speak on the record.

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