Shumlin Gives Comcast a Whole Lotta Love

In a move that one would readily expect from Gentleman Jim Douglas, but not from the standard bearer of the Democratic party in Vermont, Peter Shumlin has sent a letter to the FCC endorsing the mega media takeover by Comcast of Time Warner.

This, the day after a Comcast outage lasting several hours left many Vermont households with neither internet nor telephone service.

Even moderate Democrat Howard Dean’s Democracy for America has joined the Consumer’s Union and Burlington’s CCTV Center for Media & Democracy in challenging the acquisition.

This giant gulp will leave Comcast in control of 16 out of 20 top cable television markets in America, and 35-percent of all high-speed internet service in the country.

In the bad old days before corporate law got a Republican makeover, that would have been regarded as potentially a “monopoly” position; something most definitely frowned upon by the feds.

In a small market like Vermont it very definitely would represent a defacto monopoly, because the swap formula by which Comcast plans to avoid running afoul of federal anti-trust rules appears to involve moving Vermont’s Charter subscribers over to Comcast.

Thus endeth competition from the # 2 player in the Vermont market.

Why would our Democratic governor think that is a good thing? Paul Heinz of Seven Days put that question to Shumlin spokesman Sue Allen who said the following:

…Shumlin’s letter to the FCC was focused on Comcast’s “regulatory commitments in Vermont when it acquired Adelphia and its work (as one of many private providers) in bringing more choice and broadband access to Vermonters.”

However this argument seems a little weak given that basic Charter subscribers now have access to channels that are unavailable to basic Comcast subscribers, and vice-versa.

Even though their markets don’t cross in Vermont, I know of at least one Charter subscriber who will not be pleased to lose some arts programming she now enjoys with a basic cable subscription. She will most certainly regard the “choice” of only Comcast as a pretty raw deal.

Remember when Bernie Sanders tried to move heaven and earth to get cable providers like Comcast to allow subscribers to pick and choose the channels they were actually interested in using rather than being forced into expensive “bundles” that included channels of absolutely no interest to them?

Why couldn’t Shumlin have at least held out for some sort of compromise like that which would have actually benefitted Vermonters?

The larger issue is that such concentration of media power in one giant entity represents the potential for unprecedented access to the public ear and eye from a single viewpoint.  That seems the very definition of a threat to our democracy.

Heinz reasonably raises the question of whether Comcast’s $475,000. “gift” to the Democratic Governors’ Association (of which Shumlin is the current chair) might have had something to do with the Governor’s willingness to endorse the consolidation.

The DGA apparently isn’t responding to requests for comments, but you can bet this won’t be the last time that Governor Shumlin will be expected to respond to questions about his corporatist sympathies

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

4 thoughts on “Shumlin Gives Comcast a Whole Lotta Love

  1. “allow subscribers to pick and choose the channels they were actually interested in using rather than being forced into expensive “bundles” that included channels of absolutely no interest to them?”

    That will never happen, and here’s why.  The single most expensive cable channel is ESPN. If Socialism were not subsidizing ESPN, no one could afford it. And what I mean by that is that is the cost of ESPN were divided only among the people that actually watch it, no one could afford to get it.  The cost of ESPN MUST be spread across all cable subscribers.

    And this same rule applies to public access TV stations. Public Access TV stations are primarily funded by a 5% charge on all subscriber’s cable bills. In Vermont, Comcast intentionally breaks that fee out on the bill in order to generate complaints from customers over this outrageous fee for a channel they don’t want to have to pay for.

    Vermont is rare in that we have a statewide Public Service Board that protects the existence of public access across the state.  In other states, Comcast has wiped out almost all local access programming by telling the municipalities to stop funding their stations, keep the 5% subscriber’s bills for their own use, and rely on Comcast to supply a ‘public’ channel that meets the statute requirement from Congress.

    So, ironically, the lack of a la carte cable channels also supports your local public access TV channel.  I believe it’s important to fund ESPN even if you don’t watch it so that we can have the ability to watch our local select boards and high school sports on TV.

  2. Probably just business as usual but seems they’ve been extra busy spreading the simoleons around to everybody…but me.

    April 2014

    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) led the way with $35,000 from the Comcast federal political action committee (PAC) between 2009 and 2014, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) received $32,500, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) received $30,000. These figures are the combined contributions from Comcast to the senators’ campaign and leadership committees. (Schumer has recused himself from the merger hearings because his brother, a lawyer, worked on the deal.)

  3. and in other news, fire trucks are still predominately red, black cats cause you to think twice and ……… fill in the common as falling leaves analogy of your choice.  

    It is just such a disappointment that the Republican party has moved so far right that the Democratic party feels like it can occupy so much of the newly vacated middle and RIGHT of middle ground without fear.

    More than likely Shumlin and his letter will anger a lot of the Democratic base that know corporate monopoly crap isn’t good.   But, who else would we vote for….?   Can I change my name to NONE OF THE ABOVE in time for November?

    Shame Shame Shame.   (and their service sucks too!!)

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