52 Ill-Informed Mayors Agree: The Comcast/TWC Merger Is Greatest Thing Ever

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter may not be in a position to objectively evaluate Comcast.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter may not be in a position to objectively evaluate Comcast.

The gleaming USB drive that is Comcast HQ towers above the rest of the skyline here in Philadelphia, and the company is set to build another gleaming spire as a monument to its greatness right across the street. Just a few blocks away from the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider sits Mayor Michael “Why do people always laugh at my last name?” Nutter, who recently rounded up a bunch of other mayors to tell the FCC how awesome Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable would be. Of course, missing from that list of mayors were the leaders of New York City and Los Angeles, the two cities that would be most affected by the deal.

The letter [nutterlovescomcast], signed by Nutter and 51 other mayors around the country, praises the merger as a way for current Time Warner Cable markets to benefit from “increased network investment, faster Internet speeds, improved video options and leading community development programs.”

What the mayors fail to acknowledge is that there is absolutely no reason that Time Warner Cable couldn’t make these improvements on its own; it is the largest operator in the nation’s two biggest markets (NYC and L.A.) and has millions of subscribers who pay huge bills every month. TWC is not some scrappy startup that needs a deep-pocketed investor or some rickety old dinosaur that needs saving. It has merely profited by charging top dollar for bottom-dollar service.

And the reason TWC has been able to get away with offering cruddy cable and Internet to customers is because there has been no competition in these markets. If you live in Manhattan and want Internet service, you’ll likely need TWC. And even those that don’t generally have to get Cablevision service, but the two don’t overlap.

But these mayors all think that Comcast — the only cable and Internet operator that competes with TWC for last place in national customer satisfaction surveys — will somehow swoop in and make everything better.

The mayors also are operating under the delusion that a Comcast/TWC merger will create jobs. Perhaps that’s true in Philadelphia and some other places might pick up a few staffers as redundant positions get shifted around, but there is no way a consolidated TWC/Comcast will see a net gain in employees nationwide. These two companies might not have a geographical overlap, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t staffing overlap.

Notably left out of the letter from the mayors are New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, who has openly questioned the validity of the merger, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recently asked for an extension on the deadline to file comments regarding the deal.

The best part of the mayors’ letter is where they credit Comcast with being the sole impetus behind recent gigabit broadband expansion plans from Google and AT&T.

Yes, because apparently Google — that little Internet company that hates to expand — had only been planning on bringing Google Fiber to the Kansas City area, and tiny telecom titan AT&T bought miles and miles of fiber cable just so it could make cool-looking jump ropes for the company fitness center.

Thank you Comcast for showing these companies the way to roll out fiber networks that were already the result of years of planning and billions of dollars!

The folks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance say we shouldn’t stop with just thanking Comcast for its apparent role in other companies’ gigabit expansion plans.

• Since Comcast announced the merger, the Large Hadron Collider has not created a black hole large enough to destroy the Earth. #thankyouComcast
• Since Comcast announced the merger, millions of kittens have been adopted #thankyouComcast
• Since Comcast announced the merger, we have a potential Ebola vaccine #thankyouComcast
• Since Comcast announced the merger, Bruce Willis has not had to blow up an asteroid to save our planet. #thankyouComcast

Well, we don’t know about that last one. Bruce isn’t always very public about his asteroid-destroying activities.

Back to the matter at hand… Instead of praising Comcast for its valiant effort to expand by purchasing another huge company, these mayors should be urging Comcast to spend these billions improving its speeds and building out a gigabit network of its own that would offer more choice to consumers.

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