Concerns of Consumers Reflected in the Comcast Merger Defeat

Written by Laura Slote, California Common Cause Policy Intern on April 29, 2015

Earlier this month, a crowd of people gathered across from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in Downtown Los Angeles. A diverse group of people, they varied in age and appearance, but were united in their desire to make their voice heard at the public hearing set to commence. At 12:30 pm, donning yellow pins and carrying signs of bolded red font, the crowd streamed through the security line one by one.

Activists and supporters gather outside of the CPUC prior to the hearing to oppose the disastrous proposed merger.

Activists and supporters gather outside of the CPUC prior to the hearing to oppose the disastrous proposed merger.

The reason for this gathering was a hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. More than a year after Comcast first bid approximately 45 billion to merge with Time Warner Cable, the CPUC held a public hearing in order to better judge how the merger would impact everyday consumers. The merger, which would give Comcast a statewide monopoly, would also mean higher prices, less diversity in programming and fewer independent voices. Comcast claimed that the merger would help the company to provide better service while allowing the market to remain competitive. However, this remained doubtful, as a single corporation’s domination of the marketplace would likely lead to worse service, which Comcast is already notorious for.

Residents from all over Los Angeles fought traffic to testify at the CPUC’s public hearing. Right off the bat, apparent support for the merger poured in from a lineup of individuals all dressed in incredibly similar looking suits. However, it quickly became clear that opposition for the merger was there in full force. Two hours into the proceedings, the majority of those still testifying were steadfast in opposition to the merger. By the time my name was called to speak, opposition to the lack of diversity, prices, and quality had already been discussed at length. I quickly made my point on the flaws of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program excluding many low income communities, and was relieved to be making my way away from the podium and out of the still packed room. Speakers in support of the merger had all but trickled out by the time I left.

Yet the commission had decided to extended the hearing at least another hour, and there remained at least sixty more people signed up to speak. While the start of the proceedings had seemed rocky, a tidal wave of those in opposition to the merger had surged forward by the end.

And last week, we saw that the tidal wave took over. Comcast withdrew its proposed merger and consumer rights won in full force. The hearing that I attended in Los Angeles was a representation of the outpouring of opposition across the nation. Ultimately, the public stood strong and won.

Office: California Common Cause, Common Cause National

Issues: Media and Democracy, Media and Democracy

Tags: Media Mergers, Media Monopolization

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