Comcast publicity draws Maxine Waters back into the fray


Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has been one of the most vocal congressional critics of the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal, and recent headlines about Comcast disputes with Level 3/Netflix and Zoom Telephonics have sent her back to the FCC with renewed complaints.

Waters conceded that Comcast’s demand for higher fees from Level 3 to transmit Netflix movies to subscribers may be warranted due to it high bandwidth consumption, but added, “the implications and dynamics change once the colossal cable operator and Internet Service Provider (ISP) in question stands to gain ownership over all of NBC Universal’s online, cable, and motion picture properties.”

Besides the possibility of discriminating against competitors in favor of its own program offerings, Waters said disputes between Comcast as ISP and the companies that travel over its internet onramps can deprive subscribers of service as seen recently in the Fox/Cablevision retransmission dispute.

Waters also brought up an earlier dispute with The Tennis Channel, which claims it is not being treated fairly, and add that the complaint from Zoom “…outlines a string of facts alleging that the cable operator is restricting consumer access to innovative devices by controlling the approval process for cable modems.” She noted that as yyet there has been no regulatory resolution of the Tennis Channel and Zoom situations, and said no action should be taken on approving the merger until the all of the pertinent facts are known.

In her letter to the FCC, Waters wrote, “Although the Commission’s 180-day merger review deadline passed on November 25th, I urge the FCC to carefully review these new allegations, along with the voluminous record of the current merger proceeding, and ensure that if the Comcast-NBC combination is approved, it is conditioned upon substantive commitments that will promote media diversity, competition, and consumer protections.”