The massive Comcast-Time Warner merger is anything but certain. The landscape has changed, as headlines throughout the country have reported that Comcast is firing back like never before against mounting opposition. Now their financial dependents are also getting in on the fight.
Just last week, Comcast beneficiary Hispanic Leadership Fund went on the attack, with an opinion piece from Mario Lopez in Fox News Latino blasting groups like mine, Presente.org, for opposing the merger and not simply trusting Comcast and Time Warner to do the right thing.
The list of problems and dangers of the merger appears to be endless. From the impact on consumers, on producers, on Latinos, on content generators, on independent Spanish networks, and on and on. When you see groups coming out in support of the merger therefore, we need to closely scrutinize their bottom line.
- Arturo Carmona
Let’s start with this central fallacy: that Comcast’s failed "Internet Essentials" program, supposedly granting cheap Internet to millions of low-income families, actually works. It doesn’t: as has been pointed out again and again since Comcast agreed to put together the program as a condition of their last merger with NBC Universal.
To begin with, actually getting into Comcast’s affordable coverage program is nearly impossible, they throw up barrier after barrier that keeps most low income people out. It’s only accessible to families with school-age kids on reduced lunch who aren’t yet Comcast customers and haven’t been late on any bills recently. Let’s be honest — if you are working more than one job, you don’t have time to fight through a never-ending application process.
Next, even if you do get into the program, the Internet service is terrible to the point of being nearly unusable. It is so slow it doesn’t work with most modern web applications, and there are reports it shuts down completely if more than one person uses it at a time.
The California Public Utility Commission examined the program and found “weak performance” in regards to the program having any impact on the digital divide.
At the end of the day, one-third of Americans don’t have high speed Internet access at home, many of them are Latinos, and what we actually need to fix it is more regulation and more competition. Neither of those will be achieved by a Comcast Time Warner Merger, we will simply fall farther behind on both counts.
The most important part of Mr. Lopez’s piece was simply left out: he fails to disclose the ties the Hispanic Leadership Fund has with Comcast and wealthy corporate interests. According to their website, Jaquelyn Puente, Executive Director of External Affairs for Comcast serves on the organization’s Executive Committee. They have also taken $700,000 from the Koch brother’s donor network.
It should come as no surprise that those who financially benefit from Comcast support the merger, as those are the only people who win if this merger goes through.
As the process moves forward, the necessity to oppose this merger only grows. Just a few weeks ago, a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulator released a 100-plus-page decision pointing out a series of issues disastrous to working families, and particularly for Californians. The regulator’s approval of the merger hinged on 25 major conditions to alleviate negative impacts. Comcast quickly opposed nearly all of the conditions of the CPUC decision.
But the list of problems and dangers of the merger appears to be endless. From the impact on consumers, on producers, on Latinos, on content generators, on independent Spanish networks, and on and on. When you see groups coming out in support of the merger therefore, we need to closely scrutinize their bottom line. But the rest of us have a lot on the line: Internet access is essential for Latinos to achieve full equality and participation in American life, as is our access to unbiased media.
This is why we are continuing to mobilize tens of thousands of our members in partnership with our allies to rally against this unprecedented megamerger threatening our communities. We can afford nothing less than an all-fronts mobilization to stop this merger.
Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente.org.