Letter to the FCC

Posted on July 12, 2006 - 2:03pm.

Kevin Martin, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission

Dear Chairman Martin and FCC Commissioners:

We understand the FCC has entered into the final stages of consideration on the proposed transfer of cable systems from the bankrupt Adelphia Communications to Comcast and Time Warner. If this acquisition is approved, Comcast and Time Warner will serve more than 50% of the cable households in the United States and will be able to exercise considerable market power.

We therefore write to underscore a number of concerns raised in the proposed transaction and ask the FCC to give serious consideration to either denying the application or imposing significant conditions that will address these concerns.

Competition concerns It is imperative that the FCC seriously considers imposing conditions that will require Comcast and Time Warner to make “must have” programming available to competitors such as satellite providers.

Net Neutrality. The FCC should strongly consider a “network neutrality” provision at least as strong, if not stronger, than that imposed by the FCC in the recent mergers of Verizon/MCI and SBC/AT&T. Broadband offers a way to offer competitive telephone and video services. Even consumers with access only to Comcast or Time Warner can offset the increased market power of these companies by using broadband competitors instead.

Build out and PEG Concerns. Communities across the nation depend on their cable television as their primary form of media. In addition, many of these communities depend on the public access channels that are negotiated as conditions for the operation of cable systems.

We therefore note with alarm the history of Comcast and Time Warner unilaterally renegotiating franchise conditions after completion of a transfer. We urge the FCC to consider the conditions that would make commitments made by Comcast and Time Warner to local franchising authorities enforceable through the FCC rather than through prohibitively expensive litigation.

Programming and Political Speech. Finally, we call upon the FCC to protect diversity of programming and access to political speech. Numerous parties have brought to the FCC’s attention the willingness of Comcast and Time Warner to ignore worthy independent programmers in favor of programming they own, or affiliated with other media conglomerates. In addition, Time Warner and Comcast have refused to take political advertisements for positions they oppose, while giving themselves free time to air their own perspectives. If these two companies dominant the nation, they will have extraordinary power to stifle the vigorous, uninhibited debate essential for democratic decision-making.

In conclusion, more than 30,000 individuals, as well as organizations representing millions of others, have called upon the FCC to protect their rights to competition and free speech. We fully expect that the FCC will give these concerns their full consideration, and will impose whatever conditions it finds necessary to protect the public interest.


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