Little-known New York group could foil merger plans
New Yorkers who have taken the time to comment on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger are overwhelmingly against it — but very few have taken the time to comment.
Those for and against may want to make their voices heard now, because as the Washington Post reported last week, the little-known New York State Public Service Commission may have the power to nix the sections of the merger involving New York. That could endanger the entire $45 billion agreement.
But the New York group's power pales compared to that of the Federal Communications Commission, which has the power to limit or block the deal — but isn't widely expected to do so. (It signed off in 2011 on Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal.)
You can post comments to the FCC here, or read others’ comments here. The FCC has received many comments in recent days from rural customers concerned that they could lose some farm-focused channels in the transaction. Thousands of people have shared comments in recent months.
Despite the New York group's importance, just over 300 people as of this writing have weighed in at its website — perhaps because there's been so little publicity about the group. It held three hearings across the state last week.
As of Tuesday morning, more than a third of the New York comments used boilerplate language from the Consumers Union, which argues that the merger would mean “skyrocketing cable rates, slow and selective broadband speeds, and lousy customer service.”
A handful of the commenters conceded that they weren't actually New Yorkers, but said they still had a stake in the decision as Comcast or Time Warner Cable customers.
The word “monopoly” comes up often in the comments — as in, “I had thought Monopoly was against American law.” That quote comes from one of many New Yorkers who said no single company should have so much power over cable and the Internet.
Comcast and Time Warner Cable advertise the merger as promoting innovation and allowing the two largest cable companies — which would lure into one massive one — to fend off their competitors. The deal could also include an $80 million golden parachute for Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus, who helped broker the deal a mere six weeks into the job.
Watch last week's New York City hearing: