Some truth about Comcast - WikiLeaks style

Steve Schultze sjs at princeton.edu
Mon Dec 20 11:20:37 CST 2010


Evidently this list is interested in telecommunications law.  I was worried it would be considered OT, but since people are talking about it, here are some clarifications...

On Dec 19, 2010, at 8:20 PM, Bryan Fields wrote:
> On 12/19/2010 20:09, Leo Bicknell wrote:
>> They have been granted a monopoly by the local government for
>> wireline services, and in exchange for that monopoly need to act
>> in the public's interest.  In the TV world this is things like
>> running the local community interest channel, and paying a franchise
>> fee.  In the IP world we're still developing the criteria, but it's
>> not unreasonable to think they might have some government imposed
>> requirements there as well.
> 
> The government granting a monopoly is the problem, and more lame government
> regulation is not the solution.  Let everyone compete on a level playing
> field, not by allowing one company to buy a monopoly enforced by men with guns.

On Dec 19, 2010, at 9:12 PM, JC Dill wrote:
> Why not open up the market for telco wiring and just see what happens?

There are no government-enforced monopoly rights on cable or copper/fiber these days.  The exclusivity for the telcos went away in the Bell breakup and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  See, for example, the section of the Act codified at 47 USC 253:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sec_47_00000253----000-.html

Congress went so far as to force ILECs (the incumbents) to lease their lines to competitors for awhile, with the idea that it would lead the competitors to build out their own "facilities-based" lines.  Even with those incentives, line-based competition failed to materialize to any substantial degree.  

The exclusivity for cable providers went away with the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, which you can read about in the Background section of the FCC's 2007 Order Implementation of Section 621(a)(1) (the first of two orders that sought to further remove local control over many aspects of the franchising process):

http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2007/03/21/E7-5119/implementation-of-section-621a1-of-the-cable-communications-policy-act-of-1984-as-amended-by-the#p-21

On Dec 19, 2010, at 8:37 PM, George Bonser wrote:
> What I am concerned with happening is a cash-strapped city seeing
> Comcast (or any provider, really) trying to charge for access to
> subscribers and then the city saying "wait a minute, who are you to sell
> access to our people to a third party?  If you are going to charge third
> parties for access to those eyeballs, then you can pay us, in turn for
> that access."  And from there it all goes down hill.

Cities currently do not recoup anything from telephone and internet services.  Cities are capped at 5% of gross revenue from video services, and the definition of what they can recoup has been consistently narrowed by the FCC, as I noted here (in response to the first message in which you raised this concern):

http://mailman.nanog.org/pipermail/nanog/2010-December/029444.html



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