CPUC Gets Earful on Comcast/Time Warner Cable

Holds Lengthy Hearing On ALJ Recommendation To Approve Deal

The California Public Utilities Commission held a three-hour plus stakeholder meeting Feb. 25—there appeared to be about 50 people at the meeting—in advance of its planned vote next month on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, or at least the phone and broadband portions of the proposed merger.

In a Feb. 13 decision, a CPUC administrative law judge recommended that the state approve the merger with more than a dozen conditions, including improving customer service, providing backup batteries for VoIP service (one of the issues the Federal Communications Commission is mulling as part of the IP transition), extending Comcast's Internet Essentials low-cost broadband program to TWC customers and upgrading K-12 Internet infrastructure.

That decision prompted the meeting, where deal parties, proponents and opponents weighed in. CPUC commissioner Carla Peterman, who presided, said the purpose of the meeting was to get an idea of what people like and don't like in the ALJ order to guide the CPUC decisionmaking process over the next several weeks.

In the public forum portion, the deal got hammered by some commenters, in person and on the phone, and praised by others, including groups who said they had been helped by Comcast and supported the merger. A representative from Self-Help For The Elderly praised Comcast's Internet Essentials program, including self-help computer skills classes, one of many to praise that low-income broadband program. A member of a local chamber of commerce said he appreciated Comcast's investment of both resources and time in the community, which was echoed by a representative of the Fresno chamber of commerce. Then there was the representative of a San Francisco LGBT center who talked of Comcast's financial support for the center and as a communications link to the community. He thanked them for their support of the LGBT community and other diverse communities in San Francisco.

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