Last week, the city council in Worcester, Massachusetts voted 8 to 3 not to transfer the city's cable television license from Charter Communications to Comcast. The Worcester Telegram reported:
"... the council Tuesday night asked [City Manager] Mr. Augustus to reject Comcast's request for the license transfer because it feels the cable company lacks the necessary managerial experience, based on the number of public complaints there have been about its "substandard customer service practices." "
The city manager is not bound by this vote. The manager and Comcast are negotiating the license transfer. Reportedly, 43 of 53 towns so far have approved the license transfer. If all transfers are completed, then Comcast would add about 183,000 customers in the state to its current 1.5 million total. The transfers are tied to Comcast's purchase of Time Warner Cable.
In June, Comcast converted thw wireless routers of 50,000 Houston residents to public WiFi hotspots. In July, a horrific Comcast customer-service call went viral.
Comcast and other major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have lobbied against "Net Neutrality" rules that require them to treat all Internet traffic equally. Also, the major ISPs have obtained laws in 20 states that prohibit local towns and municipalities from developing their own broadband Internet services. That restricts competition and consumers freedom of choice. Comcast and Netflix reached an agreement in February where Netflix will pay Comcast additional fees to ensure faster and reliable access.
Charter Communications was one of several ISP and telephone companies in 2008 that wanted to spy on their customers' Internet usage, without notice and without customers' consent, by partnering with NebuAd, a behavioral advertising vendor that offered Deep-Packet Inspection capabilities. NebuAd closed in 2009.
"It's a terrible company," City Councilor Gary Rosen said after a vote last night, pointing to Comcast's "deplorable and substandard" customer service in other municipalities. "In my opinion, they should not be welcome in this city. Comcast is a wolf in wolf's clothing; it's that bad. They are awful, no doubt about it. Maybe we can't stop it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't speak out."
Hopefully, more towns' city councils will speak out. The Worcester Telegram also reported:
"Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, chairman of the council's Public Service and Transportation Committee, which held three public hearings on the issue, said it was time for the council to send a message to the Federal Communications Commission about Comcast... District 5 Councilor Gary Rosen said the City Council should not welcome Comcast to Worcester because of its "deplorable and substandard" customer service across the country."
Is the FCC and Chairman Wheeler listening? I hope so. And hope that the FCC is listening to all feedback and focused only listening to ISP lobbyists.