Everyone's picking on us, Comcast tells FCC

26 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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Comcast has slammed back at critics of its proposed mega merger and market swap with Time-Warner and Charter. In a filing with the FCC, Comcast played the victim, claiming that companies and organisations that oppose the deal are just trying to feather their nests at its expense.

The California Emerging Technology Fund’s criticism of the Internet Essentials program in particular got under Comcast’s typically thin corporate skin. CETF submitted well-documented comments showing how the program – intended to provide affordable Internet service to low income families – is more sham than show. Comcast’s answer is to call CETF’s findings “overstated, unfounded and often self-serving”…

CETF and a few other petitioners criticize certain aspects of Internet Essentials and seek a laundry list of unnecessary and counterproductive conditions.114 Their claims are, first and foremost, irrelevant. Comcast has never claimed that Internet Essentials is the only choice for a broadband adoption program, or that there are no aspects of it that could be improved, as Comcast has consistently done.

Comcast says that the fact that 35,000 homes have taken advantage of Internet Essentials in California – a statistic, in fact, mentioned by CETF – proves they are wrong. That disingenuously ignores the other stat CETF cites: 313,000 Californian homes are eligible for the program, which has been running for more than 3 years.

In other words, Comcast can’t even sign up 1,000 homes a month in California and has barely reached a tenth of the potential market. As CETF shows, the reason isn’t lack of interest, it’s because Comcast makes it hard for people to sign up, but easy to churn out.

That 35,000 figure, by the way, is gross subscriber additions, not net gains. If you assume a typical churn rate of 20% – typical for more affluent homes, that is – Internet Essentials will stall out at something like 60,000 homes (within that particular universe), reaching less than a fifth of the Californians who need it. A higher churn rate – not unreasonable to assume for lower income households – will mean even fewer will benefit.

Allowing Comcast to control as much as 80% of the cable market in California will only spread the pain further.