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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Telco & Cable Mergers

Stop The Mergers I have posted on this issue a couple of times but it is important that we do not slack off on putting pressure on our government to do the right thing.   We need to keep these megacorps from attaining any more control and consolidation of power than we can help...   As is witnessed by the revalations about our personal information and who has it and what they are doing with it, it is time to make sure these giants hear what we have to say...   - fc
Stop Big Telco and Big Cable from getting even bigger

The largest telecommunications and cable companies are fighting to shut down a free and open Internet. They keep raising prices while making empty promises about serving all Americans. They've even illegally handed over your personal information to government eavesdroppers.

AT&T is trying to buy BellSouth, which would make it the largest telecom company in the world. Comcast and Time Warner — the country's two largest cable and Internet companies — are trying to wrap up their purchase of Adelphia, the nation's fifth-largest cable company. If these deals go through, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T will control over half of all the high-speed Internet connections in the United States.

The Federal Communications Commission is in the final stages of deciding whether these deals should go through. Your voice can make all the difference in stopping them.
To ensure your comments are useful to the FCC, try to address the questions below. We'll put your answers together into a single filing on the next page.

Introductory text (edit to express your own concerns):
Dear Chairman Martin:

I am writing to challenge the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia merger (FCC Docket No. 05-192) and the AT&T/BellSouth merger (FCC Docket No. 06-74). Allowing the largest telecommunications company and the two largest cable companies in the United States to grow even larger does not serve the public interest.

The concentration of media power is a growing problem in this country. Though we have more channels available than ever before, they are increasingly falling under the control of a handful of giant corporations. The cost of broadband service also remains out of reach for many households. Americans are hungry for more competition in services. However, these mergers will only starve Americans of this needed competition.

Allowing AT&T to combine with BellSouth will give the top three broadband providers control of over half of all broadband connections in the country. At the same time, the Time Warner/Comcast/Adelphia merger will give Comcast and Time Warner increased power over entire regions of the United States, allowing rates to rise even as the digital divide continues to grow.
What services and needs should be protected if the FCC allows this merger to go through?
The FCC should block these transactions or impose strict conditions to protect free speech and competition under its "public interest standard." If the FCC decides to allow either of these mergers, it should require the following conditions:

1. Subscribers must be able to choose from competitive Internet Service Providers ("open access"). The FCC should also ensure that these companies cannot discriminate against any Internet content or rival service and that every service will be treated exactly the same ("Network Neutrality").

2. Companies must be required to sell broadband access separate from video and telephone service, and at the same price ("naked broadband" or "unbundling").

3. Any subscriber must be able to connect any device to the network (such as a Wi-Fi router) that does not harm the network.

4. Take steps to protect public access programming ("PEG"). Cable companies have become less responsive to the needs and requirements of communities. The quality of public accountability in local franchise agreements has declined, as big companies leverage their power to squeeze local governments. Likewise, telecommunications giants — like AT&T — are trying to eliminate the remaining vestiges of effective local oversight and control altogether.

5. Independent programmers must be able to reach subscribers. We are required to buy channels we don't want or need because providers of video service bundle them together.

6. Any company that owns both programming and video systems should be required to provide competitors with access to their regional sports and other programming needed to offer competing services, so consumers will still have real choices.
Concluding Text (add your own comments)
In conclusion, I ask the FCC to consider the interests of the people like me who pay the cable, telephone and broadband bills and watch the programming. Many of us already have enough trouble trying to afford broadband or cable TV. Please don't make it even harder for us to find competitors, or make it easier for Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T to raise prices or block local and independent voices.


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