Comcast would like to introduce you to a nice little business from Tupelo, Miss., that started out five decades ago selling just one product, and grew organically to a company now going before some government bigwigs asking that they let it do its business.
Tupelo is Elvis Presley’s hometown – what could be more American than that? – and this business has a testimonial from a good friend who attests that it is “a great company.”
The great company, of course, is Comcast, now the largest cable company in the country, and it hopes the government bigwigs will allow it to buy Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable company, for $45 billion dollars.
Here’s where the folksiness ends.
The merger has drawn fury from some consumer groups who say merging the giants will create monopolies in many markets and limit access to the internet. They say consumers will be at the mercy of a vastly more powerful Comcast.
Nonsense, says Comcast, which laid out its case in a filing to the Federal Communication Commission Tuesday morning. In cheery, feel-good language, it makes the case that the merger will improve service for customers, increase online access for the poor, and make the internet a freer place.
Comcast notes that three years ago, when it acquired Time Warner Cable for $30 billion, the government required it to adhere to Open Internet rules designed to keep it from favoring some online content, or customers, over others. It says it is now the only company in America legally bound to follow those rules, and that bringing Time Warner Cable under its umbrella will expand them.
Comcast says it would also bring improved internet and cable service to Comcast, and that its expanded scale would allow it to invest more in research and development. And it would expand a program for low-income consumers, Internet Essentials, that has connected over 1.2 million people so far.
Comcast also says it needs to keep growing in order to compete with companies like AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV, Dish, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook. “Many of these companies are far larger than our combined company would be in market capitalization, annual revenues, and/or customers,” Comcast said in a news release accompanying the FCC filing.
The good friend Comcast cites as calling it a “great company,” by the way, is Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, overseer of a cable empire that reaches more than 2 billion people worldwide.
Comcast noted his compliment to illustrate that it has a good relationship with networks, and has never blacked out their programming in a dispute over money. Many service providers, including Time Warner Cable and satellite companies DirecTV and Dish, have blacked out networks for long periods of time in fights over how much to pay them for their content.
“Last year, Comcast celebrated its 50th anniversary,” Comcast said. “Founded as a small company in Tupelo, MS, we’ve grown through five decades to become a cutting-edge media and technology company that employs 136,000 people across the country and beyond. We’ve grown organically and through acquisitions, from a one-product company showing a few broadcast channels, to a multi-product company offering consumers nearly unlimited choices today. We’ve invested to help build a robust broadband network — and we’ve been an industry leader in product innovation.”
The little company from the hometown of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll wants to be the King of Cable, and pledges to be a benevolent one.