I was checking for telecommunications news over at Ars Technica this morning, as I do every day, when I saw the article “Comcast allegedly trying to block CenturyLink from entering its territory.” Now, I’m a sucker for articles about Comcast and the cable/broadband industry (the series over at The Verge is currently my particular favorite). Recently I’ve been shocked – just shocked – to learn that your industry is not robustly competitive. Who knew? And now, to my surprise, I read in Ars Technica that you opposed CenturyLink’s building competing cable systems in Comcast’s markets, because CenturyLink’s buildouts wouldn’t serve the entire community, meaning that CenturyLink might not serve low-income customers. I was particularly impressed to see you use the word “redlining.” You might know that the name of our organization, Greenlining, is the opposite of redlining.
I think a great deal of my surprise stemmed from the fact that your past behavior has pretty clearly indicated that you don’t care about low-income customers at all. I’m sure you’ve read Greenlining’s arguments to the Federal Communications Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, so I’ll just summarize them by pointing out that (1) you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to participate in low-income programs, and (2) Internet Essentials, your program to increase broadband adoption by low-income households, has been an abject failure. Apparently, however, times have changed, and you’re now a staunch defender of low-income customers! That’s so great! However, I’d like a little more detail, so could you please answer the following questions:
- When are you planning to apply for approval to participate in the California and federal Lifeline programs?
- What changes are you making to the Internet Essentials program? For example, are you going to eliminate the rule that current Comcast customers can’t enroll in Internet Essentials, even if they otherwise qualify? Are you going to expand eligibility beyond households that have household member enrolled in the school lunch program? Are you going to increase speeds from 3-5 Mbps to something more reasonable like 25 Mbps—half the speed you offer to your higher income customers?
- When are you announcing that you won’t allow “fast lanes” on your network? As we all know, paid prioritization creates faster Internet speeds for wealthy customers at the expense of low-income customers.
- When are you going to adopt a strong local and targeted hire policy, and pay all of your workers a wage sufficient to support a family?
- When are you going to reduce your prices? It appears that your profit margin is about 70 percent, so by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, you could cut my bill from $95/month to about $60/month and still make a respectable profit.
Whew! Sorry to get carried away there, Comcast; I’m just super excited about your new commitment to serving everybody. In fact, if you were already doing this, I bet that the government would approve your merger with Time Warner without even blinking! And do you know what else? When you do something nice for someone else, it makes you feel really good! I know you’ve never experienced that feeling before, but trust me, it’s awesome.
P.S.: I just want to make clear that this is sarcasm and that I’m not actually proud of you, Comcast. You’re using fake concern for low-income families to block competition from CenturyLink, which may well be the worst thing you’ve ever done.
P.P.S.: Sarcasm aside, we would like answers to these questions, and we think a lot of your customers and regulators would too.