The Time Warner-Comcast merger has been a point of contention for many. Until now, the most vocal of which has been Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has said that the merger will lead to higher prices for everyone.
Hastings has a new ally this week, the city council of Worcester, Massachusetts. City Councilor Gary Rosen said,
It's a terrible company. 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.
This comes about as Comcast and Charter are making a few customer trades across the country in preparation for the merger. Like with wireless carriers, spectrum and customers sometimes have to be traded with competitors to avoid regulatory hurdles. Worcester is one of the markets that is being transitioned from Charter to Comcast, but clearly they are not happy about it.
This comment comes in preparation for a vote on whether to allow Comcast into their city. The Telegram & Gazette said,
The City Council is urging City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. not to sign off on the transfer of the city's cable television license from Charter Communications Inc. to Comcast Corp.
By an 8-3 vote, the council Tuesday night asked 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."
If the city manager doesn't do anything, the transfer will be approved automatically. If he does reject it, Comcast will, obviously, appeal the decision. Unfortunately for the council, their reasoning is not sound. Deputy City Solicitor Michael E. Traynor said,
The cable license transfer can only be based on four criteria: the company's management, technical and legal experience, as well as its financial capabilities. If Comcast can meet that criteria, the transfer cannot be denied.
He believes that customer satisfaction does not indicate enough managerial experience issues. The council hopes that the vote will send a message, though. City Councilor Konstantina Lukes said,
This is not a paper vote; this is not an empty vote. This is a very clear vote that we are not going to tolerate the kind of responses we got from Charter and Comcast.
While it may not make a direct impact on the city, they do hope the FCC will take notice that there are some who are unhappy with the idea of a merger. Will it affect their decision regarding the merger? Only time can tell.