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How Comcast gets whatever it wants despite being one of America’s most hated companies

April 24th, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Why Is Comcast So Bad

Comcast may be one of the most hated companies in the United States, but it does have a lot of friends where it matters most: In government. OpenSecrets does a nice job of breaking down Comcast’s extensive ties to current and former government officials, headlined by former FCC commissioner Meredith Baker, who became a lobbyist for Comcast right after leaving her post at the commission, and former FCC chairman Michael Powell, who is now lobbying in favor of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as the head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

But that’s not all — OpenSecrets documents four other former FCC officials who went directly from working at the FCC to working at Comcast, including “Rudy Brioche, who worked as an advisor to former commissioner Adelstein before moving to Comcast as its senior director of external affairs and public policy counsel in 2009.” Other former FCC officials who made the jump were “James Coltharp, who served as a special counsel to commissioner James H. Quello until 1997, and Jordan Goldstein, who worked as a senior legal adviser to commissioner Michael J. Copps,” along with “John Morabito, who served a number of roles in the FCC’s Common Carrier Bureau.”

And Comcast isn’t just skilled at poaching former regulators at the federal level either — it also knows how to work the local political game to push out potential competitors.

Writing in The New York Times, Philadelphia City Paper senior staff writer Daniel Denvir describes how Comcast used its ties to local politicians in Philadelphia to block rival RCN from setting up shop in large swathes of the city. When RCN officials met with then-mayor Ed Rendell several years ago, he angrily chastised them for wanting to bring their business to his city and rhetorically asked them whether “we have to tear up the streets so you can come in here and compete against one of our best corporate citizens?”

This city government loyalty to Comcast comes even though service in the city is expensive and residents are unhappy with the options they have for cable and Internet, Denvir writes.

When you put all this together, you start to see how Comcast may get its merger with Time Warner Cable approved despite the fact that opinion polls show only a tiny minority of consumers think it would be a good idea while a clear majority think it would be a bad idea. And this is before you consider the fact that Comcast has donated campaign funds to almost every single member of Congress who has a hand in regulating it, all while spending a grand total of $18.8 million on lobbying efforts last year alone, even more than longtime K Street kingpins AT&T and Verizon.

The bottom line, then, is that Comcast really doesn’t care what you think of it. Unlike most companies out there who have to compete for your dollars on a daily basis, it doesn’t need to make you happy — it just uses its political clout to grow even more and more powerful.

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