Comcast, Internet, Arrogance, and Free Speech

New Orleans    Another day, another dollar in Comcast land where it turns out in their view of the world, no promises need be kept, customers should pay and not be heard, government is only for them, not for the people, and if they say it’s good, then, damn, it must be good:  Comcast-in-wonderland!

In Shreveport as Local 100 United Labor Union members pushed Comcast for action and access to the Internet for our Head Start parents, TV cameras were rolling and they were “not happy” as one of our members reported.

In Philadelphia where they had promised that there would be a detailed response to demands that our partner, ACTION United had brought forward in behalf of our coalition two weeks previously, yesterday came and went with no response from the company.   Houston Local 100 members got the same response from two Comcast governmental relations guys in their meeting on Friday.  Little Rock is waiting for its meeting soon.  We are on a “need to know” basis!

In Philly and Pittsburgh, members of ACTION United are taking the Comcast issue forward with a “baloney” sandwich picnic in their honor today.

City staffers in Pittsburgh sympathetic to our demands that Comcast lower the digital divide forwarded us an email from the local Comcast executive which is priceless in its arrogance and, frankly, lack of good sense about the basics involved in a democracy including the freedom of speech for folks like us who want to really see their Internet program work.  Somehow, Pittsburgh Comcast’s “Frank” seems to believe that if Comcast says “internet essentials” is a “great program,” then that ought to be enough said without worrying about the fact that no one is getting the Internet and virtually no one knows about the program.  Ol’ Frank wants to pretend that’s all on the shoulders of the Pittsburgh School System, because they haven’t “reported any complaints.”

Frank, ol’ buddy, first it’s not the job of the public schools to shill your so-called “internet essentials” program for you, and, secondly, if virtually no one has heard of your so-called “great” program, how would they complain?  And, who would they complain to?  Well, Frank, they would do exactly what they are doing and complain to people and organizations just like us who are committed to making sure that Comcast delivers on their program to provide low cost internet access.  And, despite your request to the Pittsburgh City Council members that they simply “not listen” to us as you indicated in your email, we’ve got news for you, they actually believe that it’s important to listen and respond to citizens (you might call them customers if you cared to actually really provide lower income families with internet!).

Don’t take my word for it.  Listen to Frank’s own words drawn from his email:

I have communicated with the Pgh Public Schools yesterday and they told me they have not received any complaints about the program.  We [Comcast?] ask that you do not [Frank’s bold!] engage with this group [ACTION United] and if any questions need to be answered please follow up with me.  Internet Essentials is a great program and benefits all families whose children are on the Free lunch program whether they are a Comcast customer or not.

The whole email is a classic, and, personally, I would simply love [my emphasis!] to know how Frank believes that this program currently benefits “all families…whether they are a Comcast customer or not.”

But, answers to those questions are unlikely to be available today in Pittsburgh even to members of ACTION United; since Frank also made it clear he was not going to actually show up at the City Council meeting.  Oh, no, not Frank, he’s a cable guy with Comcast.  He signed off saying, he’ll “watch on TV.”

Hello, Comcast!  Let us introduce you to America.  It’s a different country than you imagined it might be!  Live up to your word.  Provide real access to the internet for the poor, and agree to be accountable to your promises.  Hear our demands and “engage” with us directly!

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We’re not Faith-Based and Thank the Lord for AGs!

New Orleans    Comcast deigned to meet with representatives of Local 100 United Labor Unions in their offices in Houston on Monday.  Once again they tried to slather the butter on the bread with stories of their “good intentions” about internet access for the poor.  Once again they promised that they would get back to us.  Once again when we asked for real numbers of enrollees and real numbers of goals for outreach and enrollment, the only replies we could get still added up to “no.”

Orell Fitzsimmons, field director for Local 100, sitting in the meeting with a number of our leaders from Head Start units at Gulf Coast and Avance, who knew how little had been done to inform and enroll the children – and parents – they serve, had an excellent line for the Comcast representative.  He informed Comcast clearly that, “We are not a faith-based organization.  We can’t take your word on how well you think you are doing.  We have to know the facts and the real numbers.”  Fitzsimmons later told me he even quoted Ronald Reagan at one point from the old SALT missile days, and told Comcast we would need to be able to “verify.”

Maybe we weren’t hearing correctly, but the Comcast VP – they all seem to be VPs – seemed to be saying “make me!”  Furthermore he seemed to be insinuating that only the FCC could make them produce the numbers.  If that’s the case, then that’s where we will have to go to make this program work, if Comcast won’t live up to its promises.

On another front there was a report on possible progress for some of the homeowners facing foreclosure.  The story, as always, was disconcerting when it came to the codependence of the feds with the banks.  HUD secretary Shaun Donovan seemed to be wheeling and dealing to buy off different states to accept a deal which would reduce mortgage levels by a small number (the Times reported $20,000 per mortgage, which is a trickle in many communities), and tried to buy off California’s AG with a disproportionate share of the settlement.  Luckily, it appears that a number of the state attorneys generals are hip to the fact that the banks only real interest seems to be a “get out of court free” card from them, which Donovan and the feds seem more than willing to help facilitate.  Fortunately for many struggling homeowners a number of AGs are insisting that they will not waive their right to sue for the banks shenanigans.

At this point given how long suffering many homeowners have been and how many have already lost their houses, we all ought to hope for real justice, since clearly the time for a quick fix is long gone.

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