For Immediate Release: February 26th, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Consumer groups renewed their call today for the California Public Utilities Commission to reject the proposed Comcast–Time Warner Cable merger and announced that they had collected 90,000 petition signatures from Californians opposed to the deal. Today’s announcement coincided with the California PUC’s All-Party meeting on the merger scheduled to begin at 2pm in San Francisco (California PUC Auditorium, 505 Van Ness Avenue).
The petitions organized by Common Cause, Consumers Union, Courage Campaign, CREDO, Daily Kos, Greenlining Institute, Media Alliance, Presente, TURN, and the Writers Guild of America, West, will be delivered to the California PUC, which is currently reviewing the merger.
“Californians are adamantly opposed to this mega merger,” said Michael McCauley, spokesperson for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “They know that giving Comcast so much control over the broadband market is a bad deal for consumers that should be rejected outright. If Comcast gets its way, Californians can expect higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse customer service.”
A number of the groups involved in the petition drive outlined their concerns in filings made with the California PUC in December. If the merger is approved, Comcast would control key California cable and broadband markets, extending its dominance into Los Angeles. Comcast would control nearly all of the top 20 markets across the country. Almost eighty percent of Californians will have Comcast as their only provider for broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps, the FCC’s benchmark for broadband. This unprecedented market power would enable Comcast to set prices and interfere with other options for more affordable broadband.
“A bigger Comcast is not going to be better for consumers,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “Comcast wants even more control over our phone, cable and Internet service than it already has. With this merger, Comcast would be in an even stronger position to deliver its own, preferred content at faster speeds than anyone else’s. There’s no justification for approval of a merger that hurts consumers and threatens equal access to the Internet.”
In mid-February, the administrative law judge overseeing the California PUC’s review of the merger concluded that it would harm competition but nonetheless recommended that the deal could be approved if subjected to a number of regulatory conditions. However, such regulatory conditions would not prevent the significant harm to competition and consumers that would be caused if the merger goes through, according to the groups opposing the merger that organized the petition effort.
“The long list of two dozen conditions recommended for the Comcast-Time Warner merger by the administrative law judge just underline what a lousy deal this is for California,” said Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance. “Rather than dressing up a turkey, we’d like to see the CPUC take a stand in the public interest and say no merger.”
“No set of conditions could ameliorate the permanent harm that this merger would do to media diversity and the competitive marketplace for ideas,” said Sarah Swanbeck, policy and legislative affairs advocate for California Common Cause. “The proposed deal is an affront to the pubic interest and the CPUC should take a stand for consumers by opposing this merger.”
“If approved, this merger will harm California consumers and content creators, who represent an industry vital to the state’s economy,” said Chris Keyser, President of the Writers Guild of America, West. “Allowing Comcast to reach 84 percent of state residents will give one company the power to determine the direction of the online video market, threatening competition and consumer choice.”
“This proposed merger should have been laughed out of the room the minute it was proposed,” said Eddie Kuritz, executive director of Courage Campaign. “It would do nothing but create a monopoly for Comcast, a ‘Comcastopoly’ as we’ve been telling our members. Regulators need to wake up and throw this thing out.”
“The merged Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC), now known as Mega-Comcast, would totally monopolize major Latino markets in entire regions with large populations like Los Angeles and San Diego,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org. “In fact, 90 percent of the Latino population in the U.S. will have little to no other option for broadband access or cable TV if this proposed merger becomes reality. Latino consumers need competition not consolidation. We call for the CPUC to oppose the merger outright.