Comcast: Is bigger better?
Comcast’s proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner is getting lots of negative reviews, but the monopolistic nature of cable service today makes it difficult for customers to see what’s going to change if the nation’s No. 1 cable company merges with the No. 2 firm.
If the deal wins regulatory approval, Comcast would end up with 33 million cable subscribers and almost the same number of broadband users. Yet aside from those Time Warner customers who would shift to Comcast, few cable consumers will notice much of a change. The level of cable competition will remain roughly the same — that is, minimal — because the two companies don’t compete directly against each other in any market.
What critics are concerned about are the long-term implications of the merger. The deal would give Comcast roughly a third of the nation’s cable market and, because of its superior bundled services relative to satellite providers, the role of gatekeeper to the Internet for a huge chunk of the nation.
Harvard’s Susan Crawford, in a column for Bloomberg, says Comcast will be the only high-capacity wired connection for businesses in 19 of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country. She predicts the company will invest as little as possible in its network while extracting as much revenue as possible from customers.
“If all of this sounds technical,” she writes, “try this: We’re all the people of Fort Lee, New Jersey, trying to get on the George Washington Bridge. There’s a bully narrowing our access to the world whose interests aren’t aligned with ours. What we need is for that bridge to be maintained, for traffic to flow, and for the bully to get punched in the nose, collectively, by the entire country. Let’s be clear: This is old-school monopolistic behavior.”
Yet Boston Mayor Marty Walsh seems to feel the state’s capital city won’t suffer from the merger. At the annual meeting of the Mass Technology Leadership Council, Walsh acknowledged Internet service in the Hub — largely a Comcast fiefdom — leaves something to be desired. But he said he’s working to improve the speed and reliability of broadband service. “I can’t talk about it, but we’re working on it,” he said.
Massachusetts, struggling with a defective health care website, receives a three-month extensionfrom the federal government to comply with the Affordable Care Act, the Associated Press reports. WBUR’s CommonHealth blog provides some updates on the state website. The state now has a backlog of 50,000 applications that were filled out by hand after officials encouraged those seeking health coverage to abandon the website for old-fashioned pen and paper. The crush of problems is so overwhelming and demoralizing, the head of the Health Connector agency wept as she addressed her board of directors yesterday. Keller@Large says the whole debacle is government at its worst.
The Department of Public Health failed to check the accuracy of claims of local community support on medical marijuana license applications, the Eagle-Tribune reports. A Globe editorial encourages state officials to expedite the public release of the scoring of applications.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who prosecuted former Probation commissioner John O’Brien, defends her decision to sponsor three job-seekers for positions inside the agency.
WBUR’s David Scharfenberg asks: Can Mayor Marty Walsh level the playing field in a city with the highest income inequality in the country?
The Fairhaven food inspector says the Board of Health is reviewing her job status in retribution after a member allegedly harassed her over a critical inspection that found multiple violations at a local breakfast restaurant.
A Suffolk Downs union accuses Charles Lightbody of financing an illegal anti-casino ad campaign in Revere. Lightbody, who has ties to a jailed mobster, nearly sank Steve Wynn’s proposed Everett casino after he was caught on prison recordings bragging about his secret stake in the land Wynn wants to build on.
Esquire profiles embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
A federal judge has ruled Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the first southern state to have its voter-approved laws on gay marriage overturned. The judge stayed her ruling while the case is appealed.
The gloves come off in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, as Steve Grossman fires a broadside at Martha Coakley, accusing her being “squishy” in her commitment to traditional liberal values and flip-flopping on the death penalty and three-strikes legislation.
To the surprise of no one, first-term US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III is running for reelection.
The Republicans have found a challenger for state Auditor Suzanne Bump: Patricia Saint Aubin of Norfolk.
Independent candidate Bruce Sarkin plans to challenge US Sen. Ed Markey in the fall.
Mitt Romney ’s former campaign manager launches a super PAC to do in Democratic candidates nationally.
North Shore Bank and Saugusbank say they plan to merge and use the North Shore name, the Salem News reports.
Hull officials are mulling zoning changes after an appeals board ruling determined that seasonal rentals are a business and not allowed in residential neighborhoods.
A growing number of critics of the highly-touted “Giving Pledge,” which urges billionaires to commit to giving away their fortune while still here, say many are simply giving to their own foundations and not channeling money to urgent needs.
State officials tell Lynn it is spending $8.5 million less on its schools than is required, the Item reports.
Braintree and Quincy officials want a long-closed entrance to the Quincy Adams MBTA station reopened but for use only by residents using a key entry system.
CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl provides an inside look at the debate over new solar subsidies, and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s absence from the fray.
Google opens an innovative new solar plant in California that may or may not be frying passing birds.
Four Lowell police officers are placed on paid leave for their failure to provide medical treatment to a woman taken into custody who died of alcohol poisoning, the Sun reports.
NFL cheerleaders file suits against the Bengals and the Raiders saying they are being paid less than minimum wage, Time reports.
SNOW DAYSNew York Mayor Bill de Blasio said no snow day for city kids during the latest storm and is now dealing with the bad press. The Christian Science Monitor looks into how school superintendents make the snow day call. The Globe considers whether school chiefs in the Boston area have become snow wimps. Some Metrowest superintendents split the difference and opted for half days.