July 21, 2014
By NYC Public Advocate Letitia James
New York, NY – I'd like to bring your attention to a giant merger that will have a significant impact on consumers. As you might already be aware, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently taking public comment and reviewing the proposed merger of Comcast Corporation with Time Warner Cable, Inc. to determine if the merger is in the public interest of New Yorkers.
If you are a consumer of Internet and cable, this merger will undoubtedly affect you directly. I urge you to seriously consider the implications that this merger may have on the quality and cost of services provided to you as a consumer and the impact this merger may have on the overall public interest.
The proposal seeks to merge two colossal corporations: Comcast, the biggest cable company in the U.S. and largest media provider in the world; and Time Warner Cable, the second largest U.S. cable company.
For Comcast, New York State's approval of the merger is essential: Comcast currently has 23,000 customers compared to Time Warner's 2.5 million in the state. New York would account for 10 percent of the merged company's customer base. Therefore, by having the authority to reject the merger in New York State, the PSC has the power to persuade the companies to possibly renegotiate its terms, if not stop it altogether.
Internet and cable competition in New York City is already essentially non-existent. Connectivity and customer service are already delivered at sub-par and unacceptable levels. Internet Service Providers are currently able to charge consumers inflated prices as a result of poor competition.
I fear that the merger might only ma ke such matters worse.
We must also consider the potential impact on our most underserved communities, which are profoundly affected by the digital divide. Access to the Internet is inarguably critical to function in today's informal and formal spaces. The costs to digital segregation are rising as we increasingly access the Internet for employment opportunities, education, entertainment, etc. If accessing the Internet becomes more difficult for low-income communities, academic and employment competition may be undermined, and could damage the prospects of upward mobility for low-income New Yorkers and further exacerbate income inequality.
This merger will likely lead to additional price increases, completely shutting-out families and individuals already facing difficulty paying for the service. Low-income communities would therefore be disproportionately excluded from accessing what is now considered a basic form of infrastructure and means of communication in our society.
We must analyze the possible short and long-term social and economic implications of such a merger, and learn from past experience. Does less competition usually lead to better and more economical service for consumers? More often than not, the answer is no.
The PSC is continuing to take public comment on this issue. So far, 2,000 individuals have spoken up mostly against the merger. I have taken action by issuing a public statement to the PSC.
Please join me in speaking up about the dangers of the merger by posting your comment with the Public Service Commission.