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A Match to Watch: Tennis Channel v. Comcast
Back in 2010, we reported on the merger between Comcast and NBC, which was in the works at the time. One of the issues that came up was how programming is chosen.
At the time, the Tennis Channel had filed a suit against Comcast, alleging that Comcast did not make Tennis Channel programming available to as many subscribers as the Golf Channel and NBC Sports (both belong to Comcast). Comcast, under the Communications Act and Commission rules, is required to place channels owned by others on tiers equal to its own similar types of channels and can't play favorites.
The FCC had reviewed the case at various levels for two years (there was an appeal) and finally, in July of this year, issued a decision in favor of the Tennis Channel. The Tennis Channel alleged discrimination, Comcast argued the Tennis Channel was using the FCC to get out of a contract it wanted to escape. According to a Meg James LA Times article:
The FCC ordered Comcast to provide the Tennis Channel with distribution comparable to the two sports channels, which would effectively increase its coverage by about 18 million homes, and force Comcast to pay Tennis Channel millions of dollars more each year in programming fees.
It was the first time that a major cable operator has been found in violation of federal anti-discrimination program carriage rules that were established in 1993.
Comcast was ordered to remedy the situation within 45 days, a window that would make the Tennis Channel available in more homes during one of the biggest tennis events of the year, the U.S. Open in New York. The channel is currently available in about 34 million homes nationally.
Comcast immediately asked for a stay from the remedy, appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Comcast was granted the stay while the case is argued on appeal. Once again, Comcast's army of lawyers are strategically using the court as a way to slow down an adversary's remedy.
Antitrust Allegations Against Comcast Nothing New
Ramsey County and Saint Paul Under Fire for Network Plan
Community Broadband Bits 10 - Vince Jordan from Longmont, Colorado
Chattanooga Gets 150 More Jobs... From Comcast
Just on the heels of Time Warner Cable announcing 81 new jobs in Kansas City in response to the newly competitive environment created by Google's Gig, we learned that Comcast is adding more jobs to its workforce in Chattanooga.
In talking points, the lobbyists and spokespeople for these major carriers often claim that community networks will result in less investment from the existing providers, not more. This is theoretically absurd, as competition drives increased investment. And empirically, we almost always see existing providers invest more as a response to losing their monopoly, not less.
According to Ellis Smith of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, 150 new jobs will be added by the end of the year. Ellis spoke with Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager of Comcast Chattanooga:
"Chattanooga is often at the top, not only in our division but across the country in terms of performance,” Weigert said. “Our strength and record of success made it a contributing factor when they selected a location."
Comcast and others, including AT&T, have had to step up their game in Chattanooga to keep customers who suddenly had a real choice.
Regardless of whether or not today's Chattanoogans connect to its publicly owned network, they benefit. Consumers get better service, affordable rates, and advanced technology simply because the network has created competition.
Community Broadband Bits 8 - Jim Moorehead of Mendocino County, California
Wall Street: Lack of Competition Allows Comcast to Raise Prices Whenever It Wants
The Lafayette Pro-Fiber Blog alerted us to a piercingly honest analysis from Wall Street. The article on SeekingAlpha.com, titled We-re Big Fans Of Comcast's Cash-Flow Generation captures one of the major policy failures of our time:
Comcast's traditional Cable Communications continues to grow and generate copious cash flow. Video revenue, Xfinity and other cable TV products, grew 2.8% to $5 billion, while High-Speed Internet revenue grew 8.9% to $2.4 billion. We're big fans of the firm's Video and High-Speed Internet businesses because both are either monopolies or duopolies in their respective markets. Further, we believe that both services have become so sticky and important to consumers that Comcast will be able to effectively raise prices year after year without seeing too much volume-related weakness.
SeekingAlpha.com, describes itself as "…the premier website for actionable stock market opinion and analysis, and vibrant, intelligent finance discussion."
We want to empower local businesses and communities to control their own destiny. Monopolistic telecommunications companies, with their Goliath market share, Wall Street priorities, and armies of lobbyists continue to attack local control and self-reliance. They are extracting assets from Main Street and shipping it to Wall Street.Yet we see the FCC, Congress, and many states pretending that the public interest is best served by giving more power to these massive companies. And we will continue to hear industry-funded think tanks claiming that broadband has robust competition and should be subject to less public oversight. Coming soon to an op-ed page near you.
Photo courtesy of JSquish via Wikipedia Commons
Community Broadband Bits 4 - Kevin Kryzda, CIO of Martin County, Florida
Provo's Publicly Owned Broadband Network Attracts 98 Jobs
Clovis-based Secure Customer Relations, Inc., plans to move its entire operation to Provo, Utah this month, resulting in the loss of 98 jobs. ... Secure Customer Relations operates a call center that specializes in appointment setting, client prospecting and other functions on behalf of the insurance industry. Overall, the cost of operations in Provo would be a savings over Clovis, Carter said, including labor costs. He added that Clovis does not have the same level of fiber optic infrastructure as Provo.Interestingly, Clovis is slated to get better access to broadband as part of the stimulus-funded Central Valley Next-Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project. Unfortunately, that is one of them any middle mile projects that will connect community anchors but not offer any immediate benefits to local businesses and residents. It is a middle mile project, not a last-mile project that would build a fiber-optic access network like Provo has connecting everyone. This is not to demean the middle-mile project, but such things are often misunderstood (sometimes due to deliberate obfuscations by those promoting them). And speaking of obfuscation, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah apparently wants the Utah state government to take credit for this company moving to Provo.
"We move a lot of data and need high capacity," CEO Carter Beck told the Journal last week. His company specializes in appointment setting, client prospecting and other functions on behalf of the insurance industry. The relocation of companies like Secure Customer Relations, Inc.
Greenacres Florida Connects to Palm Beach County Network
In June, the city council of Greenacres, Florida, voted to invest $42,550 to connect to Palm Beach County's fiber-optic network. Greenacres joins a growing list of Palm Beach County municipalities who have data-transmission agreements with the County. Other towns include Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, Juno Beach, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Riviera Beach.
Willie Howard of the Palm Beach Post covered the Greenacres story earlier this month:
Instead of paying AT&T and Comcast $33,360 annually for transmission lines, the city will pay Palm Beach County $8,400 annually.
"It's basically cost sharing as opposed to revenue generating," said Mike Butler, director of network services for Palm Beach County. "We're not in it to make money."
Thomas Hughes, Finance Director of Greenacres, estimates the savings to the City will amount to $124,800 over five years.
In addition to saving money, Greenacres will have the advantage of increased speed. Currently, AT&T and Comcast provide a 1.5 Mbps connections. The new arrangement will provide 10 Mbps from the County - six times faster at a little more than one third the cost. The City can also feel good about keeping the dollars local and will avoid the uncertainty in dealing with remote and giant AT&T or Comcast.
Palm Beach County sits just south of Martin County, where a municipal network saves the County and school district significant dollars for connectivity. You can download our recent case study on Martin County, Florida Fiber: How Martin County Saves Big with Gigabit Network, to learn more about that network.