New York Mayor: Broadband Should Be Utility

Last week, more than four dozen mayors, including Michael Nutter of Comcast's home base, Philadelphia, said they supported Comcast's proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Absent from that roster was Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, where Time Warner is headquartered. This week, de Blasio weighed in on the potential deal.

De Blasio said in a letter to the FCC that he had “concerns” about the deal, and asked regulators to impose conditions on it. Among other items, de Blasio says he wants to see Comcast improve customer service, upgrade its network to fiber optic cable and beef up programs that offer access to low-income residents.

“The company could take a number of steps to make its services, most notably high-speed Internet connections, more affordable,” de Blasio writes.

“Comcast could, for example, make its commitment to serving the public interest clear by expanding its range of lower-cost offerings,” the mayor says. “Importantly, all low-cost packages ... must provide upload speeds sufficient to enable subscribers to be creators of content, not mere consumers of material produced by others.”

New York's mayor also says Comcast should promise to follow open Internet principles. In fact, he makes the remarkable request that Comcast drop its opposition to the idea of treating broadband as a common carrier service. “The City urges Comcast to reconsider its opposition to the reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service subject to regulation under Title II of the Communications Act,” he writes.

While Comcast might agree to some of de Blasio's suggested conditions, it doesn't seem likely that the cable giant -- or any other larger broadband provider -- will accept the idea that broadband companies should have to follow the same common carrier rules that require telecoms to put through all calls.

De Blasio also takes the opportunity to criticize the concept of “paid prioritization,” which involves broadband providers charging content companies extra fees for faster delivery. The FCC's new proposed net neutrality rules would allow companies to enter into “commercially reasonable” paid prioritization arrangements.

But de Blasio says that pay-for-play deals “will make it more difficult for city residents to access information from a wide range of sources and to share content of their own creation with others.”

He adds: “It will have particularly serious implications for our public schools and public libraries, which play an especially important role as access points and drivers of adoption for residents who lack high-speed connections in their homes.”

Tags: broadband, m&a
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