Comcast Concedes Up Selling, Cox & Times-Warner Continue Silence, and FCC Snoozes

New Orleans  The cynicism that surrounds the claims of cable companies and the FCC around lowering the “digital divide” continues to move from cloudy skies to deepest fog with absolutely no action from the FCC to solve the problem, enforce its own order, or prevent embarrassment from its own prior, public announcements.   The FCC has ceased to be an effective corporate regulator, and moved to a position akin to a hand puppet.

In a top level meeting in recent weeks between the directors of our coalition ally, ACTION United, in Philadelphia with Comcast officials that direct the Internet access program, the company frankly and flatly conceded that “yes” they were up selling to poor people who were unable to navigate access to the company for their low-cost Internet access system.  ACTION United, Local 100 United Labor Unions, ACORN International and other organizations had sent one complaint after another to the FCC about exactly this practice and in tests with our members have duplicated it time after time as a continuing and ongoing policy of Comcast.  All of this directly contradicts the FCC order in Comcast’s acquisition of NBC/Universal that they provide such access to lower income families.  Despite the company’s concession, the Comcast executives gave no assurances that the policy would change.

The FCC has failed now to respond to any complaints filed from Houston, Little Rock, Shreveport, or Philadelphia.  In Philadelphia there is some indication that the FCC simply turned the formally filed complaints over to the company for action (inaction?!?), which indicates how captive the agency is to the companies it regulates.

Despite huge publicity and announcements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal by the head of the FCC that there was a “voluntary” agreement by Cox and Time-Warner to provide similar service in the spring, there has been no announcement whatsoever that such a program has been prepared or exists.  Correspondence to Cox and Times-Warner in Louisiana and Texas from Local 100 United Labor Unions interested in enrolling our members and the Head Start families that we represent has not been answered.   The companies are hoping that poor and working families have as little knowledge of their promises as they have of the Internet, and probably aided and abetted by the FCC, felt confident that they didn’t really need to do anything anyway.

What an interesting set of government policies and corporate implementations this is.  There is no need to do little more than pretend, since performance means nothing and only marketing has meaning.  Meanwhile the divide gets wider and wider between the top and the bottom.

Thanks for nothing, FCC!

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Liberia, Fusion, Comcast, Cox, and Times-Warner

George Kieh, spearheading ACORN International's Liberia project, holding a copy of Global grassroots, and Wade

Philadelphia   The uncharacteristic Spring heat wave was broken by some rain making a predawn walk to Clark Park both invigorating and something of a relief.  After a couple of hours of conversation “catch-up” with Craig Robbins of ACTION United, we met with George Kieh to make plans to build an organization for Liberians in both Monrovia, Liberia, and in the concentrated communities in the United States.

ACORN International’s partnership with George is fascinating, because we are discussing a way that we could both build organization in New Jersey and Pennsylvania among Liberian expatriates which would provide representation, advocacy, and support services to them as well as create financial support for organizing in Liberia itself.  Simultaneously, we are creating the infrastructure and training program to begin building membership based community organization in Liberia itself that we can link in Africa to our organizing in Kenya.  The work follows the plan, and we id good work around Craig’s kitchen table outlining the setps we need to move forward.

On the way to a meeting with the ACTION United staff about our Comcast campaign I finally also understood better the Working Family Party strategy in Pennsylvania as well.  Fortunately they seem to be more aggressively committing to building an independent party and in Pennsylvania they have the added benefit of being able to use fusion in lower level contests like school board races and judicial contests, which could help crystallize support for the party efforts.

For the main event we spent a couple of valuable hours getting to do some face-to-face planning and brainstorming around our joint campaign alliance attacking the digital divide and trying to force the Philly-headquartered Comcast to finally comply with the FCC order in its acquisition of NBC/Universal and provide the $9.95/month plan and access to low cost computers.  We discussed a number of tactical options for wrenching up the pressure in coming weeks.  Not only are there various opportunities for actions, but the work being done by Local 100 with our Head Start employers who are joining our campaign in Houston, Shreveport, and Little Rock to obtain coverage for employees and clients of the program.  Recently these partnerships have brought Comcast back to the table for several meetings in coming weeks.  There was consensus that the campaign now has to also spread to Cox and Time-Warner to see if we can get them to deliver on their commitments and do a better job than the miserable performance Comcast has delivered thus far.  One of the organizers also noticed that Cox is now rolling out a national low-cost plan, which might also provide a partner for us to more effectively lower the digital divide.  Focus, focus, focus seems to be what we need to achieve now, since opportunities abound.

If I been in Philly more a full 24 hours, who knows what we might have been able to get done!

Wade and Craig Robbins, Director of ACTION United

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