Is Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” Failure Finally Going to be Exposed?

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

qs2_bor_rou_shaNew Orleans    For several years, we have bombarded the FCC with complaints from our members in Little Rock, Houston, Shreveport and elsewhere about the travesty of Comcast’s so-called “internet essentials” program.  Some will remember that a condition of the toothless FCC’s approval of Comcast’s giant acquisition of NBC/Universal was Comcast’s creation of a $10 internet access program for lower income customers along with inexpensive access to low cost, refurbished computers largely provided by Dell.  The program in reality has largely been about public relations and political influence, and certainly not real work delivering the program to lower income families.  We were able to provide enough evidence of its failed promises that the FCC fined Comcast for its failure and extended the program.  In additional PR moves, the company claims it voluntarily is extending the program in its monopolistic efforts to now buy Times-Warner cable and dominate the cable and broadband internet services in the United States.  Likely, this extension was gratuitous since they were also likely to be headed for an additional fine and mandatory extension if the FCC was anything other than a tool of the company.

            Perhaps there is still truth to the saying that “you can run, but you can’t hide,” because now as its monopoly is being questioned by some politicians and is pending before the FCC, others besides ourselves are finally clearing the air around the company’s smokescreen obscuring the terrible performance of Internet Essentials.  A Washington Post article  pointedly zeroed in on the program appropriately as the Achilles heel in the company’s baloney about its greed.  Predictably VP David Cohen, who has been the front man for both of these efforts, responded not with a thoughtful acceptance and commitment to finally make the program work, but a whine about the poor, little company, essentially just trying to do good for the sake of doing good, which has to classify as the biggest pile of bull I’ve heard in years.  Or, as he says precisely, “…every once in a while, even a big company does a good thing for the right reasons.”  We can only all reply that, yes, that does happen every once in a while, but that is definitely not the case here with Comcast.

            The Post scores the company for computers that don’t work, families that aren’t still on the internet, poor participation, and slow speeds, and believe me if they had talked to our members in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas or our partners in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia they would have found that they are only glancing at the surface.  For Comcast, this is a hand wave at the problem of the digital divide and, read the FCC orders, less than that in terms of real compliance with the conditions of their purchase of NBC/Universal.  This was NOT a voluntary feel-good effort.  The “good thing” would have been delivering for low income families.  The “right reason” was not corporate benevolence but the clear language of an FCC order that the FCC has already had to enforce with discipline, even though it was more like a hand slap.

            If this is the way Comcast spins reality into its dream machine, can you imagine what they might say a year or two down the road to explain their role in building a monopoly and restricting progress guaranteed by universal access to the internet when they are so cavalier, inept, and frankly duplicitous about their failures with Internet Essentials?