“Cities joining the Comcast service area will benefit from increased network investment, faster Internet speeds, improved video options and leading community development programs to help us tackle important community challenges like the digital divide,” the mayors state in a letter. Michael Nutter, mayor of Comcast's home turf of Philadelphia, is the first signatory, while the mayors of New York and Los Angeles -- Time Warner markets -- did not join in the letter.
To consumer advocates, the mayors' argument in favor of the merger is laughable. “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,” writes Consumerist. “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.”
Meanwhile Consumers Union and Common Cause formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject the deal. “Comcast and TWC already dominate television and broadband service in most of the key parts of the country, and this merger would only expand and strengthen and solidify that dominance,” they argue in a petition filed on Thursday.
For its part, the Federal Communications Commission on Friday made public a host of questions it asked Comcast and Time Warner.
A significant portion of the 50-page list of questions focuses on broadband access, including the companies' policies regarding net neutrality and data caps. As for net neutrality, the FCC specifically inquired about decisions regarding “whether to block, stop, throttle, slow, favor, congest or otherwise hinder the transmission” of online video services that could compete with cable video.
Regulators are also seeking specific information about data caps -- including decisions to exclude certain services from the caps. Comcast famously sparked a controversy two years ago when it unveiled a service that allows people who subscribe to both Xfinity Internet and Xfinity Digital Video to watch TV on demand on their Xbox 360 consoles.
The company said at the time that data streamed to the Xbox through this program wouldn't count against users' monthly data caps. (Comcast later moved forward with a new pricing model that involves data caps ranging from 300 GB to 600 GB, depending on the subscription package. Users who exceed the limits face charges of $10 per 50 GB.)
The FCC also asked the cable companies about their dealings with Netflix -- including the recent “peering” agreements, which involve Netflix paying fees to interconnect directly with the networks.
The deadline for public comments on the merger is Monday, Aug. 25.