Monday, February 17, 2014

Consumer Groups Concerned About Comcast Conquest

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
PHILADELPHIA - It's a $45 billion deal that would make Philadelphia-based Comcast the driving force in cable TV. But some groups have concerns about how the company's merger with Time Warner Cable will affect broadband Internet access, especially in underserved areas, according to Craig Aaron, president of the media watchdog group Free Press.

"Comcast is the country's largest Internet service provider, and adding all of Time Warner Cable's Internet customers is going to make them a huge, huge force when it comes to high-speed Internet."

Aaron said the newly formed media giant also would have added sway in Washington to push forward an agenda that enhances its bottom line.

"They spend a lot of money on lobbying. They lobby both parties. President Obama has spent time golfing and socializing on Martha's Vineyard with the CEO of Comcast, and the chairman of the FCC used to be a cable lobbyist," he pointed out.

Comcast claims the deal would be beneficial to consumers as the company rolls out more cloud-based services to Time Warner Cable customers, and that it will eventually be able to provide higher broadband speeds.

Critics of the deal say it should be blocked because it would ultimately result in decreased competition, higher rates and, potentially, compromised service. In addition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a lobbying organization focused on digital rights, has accused Comcast of slowing users' broadband connections.

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