Thursday, June 19, 2014

Big and Fast, Open and Affordable

My testimony before the New York State Public Services Commission tonight:

Hello my name is Timothy Karr. I am from Free Press, the public advocacy group that fights for everyones’ rights to connect and communicate.

Free Press has 55,000 members who call New York their home.

I first moved to New York City 25 years ago. At that time the Internet was in its infancy. It had just been made available under an open protocol. And this gave millions of everyday users the power to share information, create websites and connect with one another.

From there the network grew into a truly World Wide Web -- a people-powered engine of economic opportunity and free speech.

For more than a decade I have represented the interests of these Internet users.Wherever they are in America, people have told me one thing: They want an Internet that is big and fast, open and affordable.

I’m here tonight to tell you that this merger would accomplish none of this.

First, Comcast’s Internet Won’t be Big and Fast.

Speaking in New York last month, Comcast executive David Cohen announced plans to move entirely to a "usage-based billing model." Comcast intends to charge extra fees to any customer who exceeds the company's data caps.

This is Comcast's way of penalizing customers for using their connection in innovative ways. By squeezing our use the cable monopoly will cripple the types of home grown innovations that have become the hallmark of the Internet.

Second, Comcast’s Internet Won’t Be Open.

Don’t believe Comcast’s spin about Net Neutrality. Yes, the company has to observe open Internet rules as a condition of its merger with NBC. But Comcast has no plans to protect Net Neutrality once these terms expire.

It already has a deplorable track record. In 2007, Comcast was caught red-handed blocking user access to BitTorrent. Comcast is now trying to engineer new ways to extort money from Netflix, whose video services had slowed to a crawl over its network.

Comcast also spends tens of millions on campaign contributions and lobbyists -- including money for some of Washington’s most outspoken opponents of Net Neutrality.

It’s a money and politics scheme that is heavily invested in the death of the open network.

And Finally, Comcast’s Internet Won’t Be Affordable.

Over the past 17 years, the price of Comcast’s basic cable service has grown at more than twice the annual rate of inflation. Even its “Internet Essentials” program, designed to connect low-income families, has come under heavy criticism from many who have tried but were denied access after getting snared in Comcast’s red tape.

Despite all of its talk about this low-cost program, Comcast seems to be going out of its way to prevent people from participating. And yet analysts put the company’s broadband profit margins at 80 percent or higher.

Really, is it any wonder the cable business is so profitable? There’s no competition. Most U.S. consumers have just one choice of cable provider. And this situation will only get worse and more costly, if we approve this merger.

There isn’t a single good reason to do that.

The Comcast - Time Warner Cable merger just makes no sense. Thank you.

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