When I arrived for yesterday’s State of New York Public Service Commission hearing in Albany on the Comcast-Time Warner merger, there were about twenty people sitting along the aisles in a theatre that holds 500. While most Americans are against the merger, not many feel strongly enough to scale the vast poured-concrete fortress of the state university campus to speak out about it. That’s okay, though. Anyone can still make their opinion known to the PSC.
Comcast already has about 23,000 customers in New York, and the proposed merger would send Time Warner Cable’s current 2.2 million customers to Kabletown. Why does the Public Service Commission matter? The PSC is a state agency that regulates utility services like telecommunications, electricity, gas, and water. All states have public utility commissions, which you can go to with complaints about your phone, cable, power, or other utilities.
Can the Commissioners stop the merger from going forward nationwide? Nope. What they can do is investigate whether the merger as proposed won’t benefit the people of New York. That’s where we, the public, come in.
If you want to comment on the proposed merger, you can do so without leaving your couch or setting down your smartphone. Send your comments by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write them on a piece of paper and mail them to:
Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess
Secretary, Public Service Commission
Three Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223
In your e-mail or letter, refer to “Case 14-M-0183, Petition of Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable Inc.” You do not need to be a resident of New York state to comment, but note that your comments will become part of the public record. You can read that record and the comments on file so far from the public on the PSC site.
You can also call 1-800-335-2120 and leave your comment as a voice mail if you’re in New York.
The big hearing that everyone cares about is tonight (Thursday, June 19, 2014, if you’re reading this in the future) at the New York State Department of Public Service, which is in the federal building at 90 Church Street in Manhattan. Some news sources have reported the start time as 6:30, but testimony begins at 6. Public statements are supposed to begin at 7:30, but in Albany, they opened the floor to the public before 7:15.
Not many people were interested in attending the two upstate hearings: a similar hearing in Buffalo had about the same turnout as the one in Albany. Of the members of the public who spoke, three were against the merger, two were for it, and one spoke out against cable monopolies in general.
Albany isn’t far from the borders of Massachusetts and Vermont, and the regions bordering us are part of Kabletown. It’s a little odd to hear Comcast commercials on your favorite radio station out of Vermont when you live in firm Time Warner Cable monopoly country. The two speakers who took a pro-Comcast stance represented nonprofit organizations in economically depressed cities in western Massachusetts and talked about the generosity of Comcast toward their organizations.
Comcast’s case to the public and to the Commissioners is exactly what we’ve been hearing since talk of this merger started: Comcast taking over Time Warner Cable’s territory won’t hurt competition, will improve services, and will provide universal broadband access to all people, even low-income customers.
Again, that’s email@example.com, Case 14-M-0183.
State Hosts Second Public Forum on Time Warner, Comcast Merger [Time Warner Cable News]