In comments submitted to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) on Friday, August 8, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer continued her strong advocacy on behalf of New York consumers in the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In her comments, Brewer expressed concern about the potential size and scale of the newly created telecom giant, and urged the PSC to demand concessions from Comcast in the following areas prior to approval of the proposed merger:
– Improve internet speeds: New York State continues to lag behind international leaders in average internet speed, and as a condition of the merger, Comcast should be required to meet infrastructure investment and speed benchmarks with regular progress reporting to state and local authorities. Verizon’s recent struggles with its own FiOS network installation in New York City highlight the need for strict oversight and standards in these areas.
– Expand the Internet Essentials program: While Comcast should be praised for recent improvements to its low-cost Internet Essentials program for low-income families with children, more must be done to improve speeds offered through the program, and to extend availability to all low-income New Yorkers.
– Expand free public Wi-Fi: Comcast must commit to expand on Time Warner’s existing public Wi-Fi hotspots, making these networks free for all users. Comcast must also seek out partnerships to expand free Wi-Fi, including leveraging New York City’s upcoming payphone franchise which will turn thousands of pieces of street furniture into Wi-Fi hotpots.
– Protect community access channels: Local community access channels such as Manhattan Neighborhood Network must be grouped together in channel locations that are accessible by the average viewer, and Comcast must commit to publicize these channels and facilitate HD broadcasting when possible.
– Commit to firm Net Neutrality rules: Comcast must reaffirm its commitment to Net Neutrality principles. Brewer joins Mayor de Blasio and others in calling on Comcast to drop its opposition to classifying broadband as a Title-II regulated telecommunications service, which would allow for better Federal oversight of these principles.
– Improve customer service: Using her own recent experience with Time Warner customer service as an example, Brewer calls on the PSC to set firm standards in customer satisfaction that Comcast must uphold as a condition of any merger.