WASHINGTON — Comcast so far has refused to respond to the government’s inquiry into the cable giant’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable—at least not on the Federal Communications Commission’s preferred timetable.
The executive overseeing government affairs for Comcast, David L. Cohen, politely told the five-member bipartisan commission, “We are currently experiencing unusually high volumes of calls for details related the legality and ramifications of the Comcast-Time Warner merger. Answers your questions will be made available in approximately one to 26 years.”
“While you may continue to forward us your requests for information,” Cohen suggested, “you may be interested in a special deal we’re offering our valued customers. By approving the merger now, you would qualify for a free three-month subscription to HBO. We appreciate your patience and loyalty to the only cable provider in your area.”
Regulators remain skeptical of the potential monopoly and monopsony the merger could create, but find value in the offer of a complimentary premium TV subscription, which is fully in accordance with the “Comcast Customer Guarantee.” The guaranteed compensation for untimely or otherwise inadequate service responses was instituted after the company received the 2010 designation of “Worst Company in America” by “The Consumerist.”
Since then, the company’s measured response to market pressures—including halving its appointment window—has delivered an equally modest improvement in its less-than-stellar reputation for long wait times and untrustworthy field service. Comcast now holds the consumer group’s title for third worst company in America.
Other benefits for brand loyalty are unwritten, but equally appealing. One former member of the FCC who voted to approve Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011 was swiftly thanked for her service with a plum job heading Comcast’s Washington lobbying office.
Comcast has 107 registered lobbyists just in the District of Columbia, ready to “be of service to any of the commissioners who see any problem with their cable service now or in the future,” Cohen assured regulators sitting on the fence.
Thomas Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, was caught surfing Comcast’s job board during the hearing and checking out the associated salaries on Glassdoor.com. Two hours into the proceedings, however, the Internet connection in the room suddenly died. Comcast has dispatched technicians to investigate the problem.