Comcast: We Aren't Calling Common Cause Extortionist

Says That Category Was Reserved for Companies With "Their Hand Out'

Common Cause demanded an apology from Comcast Thursday for what it said was being branded an extortionist in Comcast's FCC response to its critics (and supporters), but the company signaled it was not asserting the consumer group had demanded any quid pro quo's.

In its response this week at the FCC to various critics of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast had said some of those critics had tried to extort various business advantages--more money, wider carriage, free interconnection--in exchange for not opposing or even supporting the deal. Comcast EVP David Cohen said there was nothing surprising or illegal about its competitors trying to leverage the deal to their business advantage. What was wrong he suggested was cloaking it in public or consumer interest rhetoric.

Among the general critics of the deal Comcast cited was Common Cause, which felt it had been lumped in with the programmers--Netflix, Discovery--for "extortion" status.

“We’ve never sought anything from Comcast, directly or indirectly, and the company knows it,” said Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and former FCC chairman. "Comcast owes us an apology."

"They are mixing apples and oranges," said a Comcast spokesperson. "The only references to Common Cause and the consumer groups in the opposition were (1) to rebut their criticisms against the Transaction and (2) to point out that they have been claiming since 1998 that the sky is falling and that cable mergers will mean the end of the Internet."

The spokesman said Comcast is drawing a distinction "between companies that approached Comcast with a handout on the one hand and consumer groups who continue these apocalyptic predictions of Internet demise on the other."