& cplSiteName &

Amid Hearings, Comcast Ups Speeds/Hotspots

Mari Silbey
4/10/2014
50%
50%

Comcast knows a thing or two about timing.

Even as executive vice president David L. Cohen testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday regarding the proposed Time Warner Cable acquisition, the Comcast home team released news that the company has now activated more than 1 million WiFi hotspots and increased Internet speeds for customers in the Northeast.

The WiFi announcement covers outdoor, business, and neighborhood hotspots, the last of which refers to home routers that segment bandwidth to enable separate public and private WiFi access routes. (See Comcast's Home Hotspots Heat Up.)

The Internet speed announcement applies to 14 states between Maine and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Comcast has boosted the Xfinity Blast tier from 50 Mbit/s to 105 Mbit/s in those regions, and the Xfinity Extreme tier from 105 Mbit/s to 150 Mbit/s.

These announcements support the company's argument that a merger with Time Warner will allow Comcast to deliver more benefits to consumers across a wider subscriber footprint. Cohen has said that if the Comcast acquisition is approved, more consumers will benefit from: faster broadband; greater network reliability and security; improved WiFi access; an advanced video platform in the form of X1; more on-demand video choices; the extension of Internet Essentials for low-income families; and the extension of diversity and community investment commitments.

When questioned by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on whether or not these benefits would still be realized even without the merger, Cohen stated that the changes would happen faster and with more certainty as a result of the acquisition.

Despite assurances from Cohen, there was a mixed reaction from the senators present at the hearing, with many expressing skepticism that a merger between the two largest cable companies in the US would be in consumers' best interest.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) flatly announced his misgivings stating, "I'm against this deal." Franken recalled for the audience that when hearings were held to discuss Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal, the company argued that vertical integration shouldn't be a concern because there were still other "robust distributors" in the market including Time Warner Cable. That argument no longer holds up if Time Warner is folded into Comcast operations.

Franken said Comcast also declared at the time, "We are not getting any larger in cable distribution here." Four years later, the situation has changed.

One of the other major concerns expressed during the latest Judiciary hearing was the idea that a larger Comcast would jack up the price of programming for smaller operators. Cohen argued that programmers don't leave money on the table in any negotiation, so a better deal for Comcast wouldn't result in a higher price for other operators.

President of Public Knowledge Gene Kimmelman disputed that analysis, however, and reports from independent operators suggest that they have had to pay higher licensing fees as a matter of course in order to balance out the deals negotiated with larger cable companies. (See In Cable We (Anti)trust.)

Between Comcast's vertical integration through the purchase of NBCU and the expanded distribution it will gain if the merger with Time Warner is approved, perhaps the biggest fear among regulators is that the company will have the power to control pricing in its supplier market in the future. Cohen argued in the hearing that the Federal Communications Commission has already examined the limits of horizontal ownership and found little risk in a company owning 30% of a market.

Kimmelman countered that any earlier review of that theory had been based on generic rules, and that the specifics as they relate to Comcast are what are important today. He also cited statistics that Comcast could end up in control of as much as 50% of the broadband market.

The debate on the merger isn't over. Even as the Senate Judiciary Committee mulls its findings from this week's hearing, the House Judiciary Committee has said it will hold its own hearing on May 8.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/12/2014 | 6:13:22 PM
Re: Will wireless be next for Comcast?
Activating wifi hotspots makes Comcast sound like a data provider that could compete with wireless companies like Verizon. 

Comcast is a conglomerate involved in many different areas at this point. Not only do they control infrastructure, they also own content. That's something wireless carriers don't have, and what's to stop Comcast from building out a nationwide wifi network?
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/12/2014 | 2:02:11 PM
Re: Monopsony
kq4ym - "You can bet Comcast has lots of "bonuses" hidden up their sleeves in preparation for getting approvals and support for the coming merges."

You bet. And I expect we'll see them roll out in pieces, at each interval when opposition to the merger seems to be building. 
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/12/2014 | 1:16:51 PM
Re: Monopsony
You can bet Comcast has lots of "bonuses" hidden up their sleeves in preparation for getting approvals and support for the coming merges. The danger of course is that the future benefits/disadvantages to the proposals are just not going to be very predictable. Whatever Comcast has to do to get it's way throught the regulatory mazes, will be done. There will be other suprises coming as well, I'm sure.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/10/2014 | 4:23:35 PM
Monopsony
The concern with the Comcast/TWC merger isn't so much monopoly, where a single supplier dominates a market. It's the lesser known threat of monopsony, where a single buyer controls the market. In this case, it would be the market for TV programming but possibly also networking equipment and services. 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/10/2014 | 3:50:58 PM
Will wireless be next for Comcast?
Comcast seems to have partnered with Verizon to offer some cellular wireless bundles... but I gotta wonder when Comcast will try to get into the wireless market on its own. 

Cable providers and incumbent telcos seem to be dividing up the market and leaving each other alone for now.. but if there's no collusion, it seems like Comcast should want to be in the wireless space, too. Perhaps the barrier to entry is too great, even for Comcast? 
From The Founder
The time has come for a telecom app store to save the industry.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote

5|24|17   |   17:27   |   (0) comments


Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability testing.
Think of this as the video sequel to the recent columns he's written about NFV and the prospect of a telecom app store. (See

LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
LRTV Documentaries
Agent of Change: A Q&A With AT&T's John Donovan

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


Carol Wilson talks with the man leading AT&T's transformation efforts about the challenge of change.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE Service Provider Panel: The New Business Realities

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


For virtualization to happen, the telecom industry first has to grapple with key functional aspects of SDN and NFV that need to be universal, such as onboarding of virtualized network functions and federation of software-defined networks.
LRTV Interviews
BCE Service Provider Keynote: CenturyLink

5|16|17   |   22:32   |   (0) comments


Aamir Hussain leads the Product Development and Technology organization at CenturyLink, which includes the company's information technology function. He is an experienced senior technology executive with more than 25 years of proven success in the implementation of global technology operations, operationalization of complex technology, infrastructures and business ...
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink CTO on Transformation

5|16|17   |   7:43   |   (0) comments


The 80-year-old telco has already gone through several transformations, including every time it made an acquisition, but its purchase of Level 3 coupled with changes in technology and customer expectations necessitates its biggest transformation yet.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2017

5|15|17   |   5:05   |   (1) comment


Find out who made it into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Interviews
Site Visit: AT&T's Tel Aviv R&D Center

5|15|17   |   09:58   |   (1) comment


Nir Shalom, general manager and VP of application development at AT&T Israel, talks about the key service developments undertaken at the AT&T R&D facility in Tel Aviv and how the team there has adopted new ways of working.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Act on Your Intelligence With Amdocs aia!

5|15|17   |     |   (0) comments


Amdocs CMO Gary Miles explains how communications service providers can seize the AI opportunity with Amdocs real-time digital intelligence platform.
LRTV Interviews
Logtel CEO: Making Sense of IoT

5|15|17   |   09:48   |   (0) comments


Jacques Bensimon, founder and CEO of Tel Aviv-based training and consultancy Logtel, talks about the need to make IoT more than just a buzzword.
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
AT&T's Donovan: Women Adapt Faster Than Men
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 5/18/2017
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
What's Blocking 4K TV Today
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 5/22/2017
Fright Wigs & Cocktails: BCE 2017 in Pics
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 5/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.