NYC Mayor Raises Concerns About Comcast/TWC Merger

While 52 other mayors from around the country were recently reminded that Comcast is an important contributor to election campaigns, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City has been busy warning the FCC that the pending merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable is fraught with potential problems.

Last week, de Blasio penned a letter PDF] to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to express his concerns about the deal, which would see most of NYC’s cable and Internet service switch hands from Time Warner Cable to Comcast.

The letter raises concerns with the impact of the merger on NYC’s media, technology, and advertising sectors, all of which de Blasio believes could be negatively impacted by the merger.

“For the tech sector, access to affordable broadband is essential,” writes the mayor. “Seamless day-to-day operation requires dependable, high-speed service, and companies must have options for redundancy in the case of service interruptions.”

He says that leaders within this sector have voiced concerns about the impact of the merger on the cost of business service prices and the ripple effect that would occur if each of the city’s 7,000 high-tech businesses suddenly had to pay more for service.

“In addition, leaders have expressed concern that as Comcast acquires even greater market share, it will have reduced incentive to respond to customer concerns,” writes de Blasio. “This is alarming given both Comcast’s and Time Warner Cable’s already poor customer satisfaction ratings.”

Indeed, as we’ve pointed out numerous times, the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable would be a marriage of the two most-reviled players in an industry where decent customer service is lacking in general.

As a condition of its 2010 acquisition of NBC, Comcast is obliged to abide by the since-gutted 2010 net neutrality rules until 2018. The company has made a big deal out of this obligation — while also forgetting to mention that it’s a requirement and not a choice — but that hasn’t quelled neutrality-related concerns from businesses in NYC, especially since any decent businessperson is already looking far beyond 2018.

Mayor de Blasio points out that Comcast would control around 40% of the broadband market in the U.S. if the merger is approved, which gives the company an immense amount of leverage in determining just how quickly content gets delivered.

“With greater market share, Comcast will have increased power over the distribution of content,” writes the mayor, who says that the merged company could eventually choose to go the “fast lane” route of charging content companies for better and higher quality delivery of their data.

“These concerns are as important to those who have constructed entire business models around a free and open Internet as they are to New Yorkers who are only able to access the web for limited periods at local public libraries or school computer labs,” explains de Blasio.

And though most of us don’t care very much for advertising or advertisers, the mayor notes that a merged Comcast/TWC would control about 80% of National Cable Communications, the firm through which all national cable advertising is placed.

“Comcast will also control 72% of the top 25 ‘interconnects’ through which regional advertising is placed and local cable advertising going into up to 71% of homes,” reads the letter. “This extreme degree of consolidation threatens to make it more difficult and expensive for area businesses to secure local advertising opportunities that are essential to their success.”

The mayor’s letter comes at the same time as both city and state leaders in New York are asking for concessions from Comcast — like free broadband in public housing and WiFi connections in parks — in order to not put up a huge fight against the merger.

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