Comcast Lobbyist Admits To Holding Internet Service For The Poor Hostage To Get NBC Takeover Approved

from the regulatory-capture dept

The Washington Post has a profile piece about Washington DC power dealmaker David Cohen, who has led Comcast's policy and lobbying efforts for the past decade. It starts out (and ends) with a whopper of a story about Cohen explicitly had Comcast not offer a special internet offering for the poor since he wanted to use it as a bargaining chip in the NBC Universal purchase:
In fall 2009, Comcast planned to launch an Internet service for the poor that was sure to impress federal regulators. But David Cohen, the company's chief of lobbying, told the staff to wait.

At the time, Comcast was planning a controversial $30 billion bid to take over NBC Universal, and Cohen needed a bargaining chip for government negotiations.

"I held back because I knew it may be the type of voluntary commitment that would be attractive to the chairman" of the Federal Communications Commission, Cohen said in a recent interview.
At the end of the article, the reporter (Ceclia Kang) notes that the FCC later "took credit" for this program when it was launched:
The initiative may not have sealed the FCC's decision to approve the NBC merger. But it helped, Cohen said.

The proposal clearly captured the fancy of regulators. Late last month, Genachowski, the FCC chairman, touted the program, seemingly claiming some credit for its creation.

"This particular program came from our reviewing of the Comcast NBC-U transaction," Genachowski said in a speech. "Comcast embraced it as good for the country, as well as good for business. And I'm fine with that."
In other words, Cohen delayed a program to help the poor... in order to help make Comcast much, much richer in buying NBC... and then conveniently engineered it so that the FCC takes bogus credit for the program which would have been launched much earlier if Comcast hadn't used it as a bargaining chip. It's hard not to be cynical about politics in general and the FCC in particular when these kinds of stories hit the press. We've long been concerned about the FCC's ability to be played like a fiddle by industry lobbyists, and this only seems to confirm that point.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Pjerky (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:37am

    The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    It seems that the entire government and every branch of it gets played like a fiddle by lobbyists and big businesses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Pjerky (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:37am

    Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    Sweet, first comment!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:51am

    Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    It's the same here in the UK. The people who really hold the power are CEOs and top level bankers and the rest of the country is seen as an inconvenience.

    I sound like a broken record but it needs to be said again, politics is rotten to the core and needs to be cleaned up from top to bottom.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    (Psst!, no "first"-ing.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Jesse (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:52am

    I don't know. When you donate to charity, do you not ensure you get your tax credits?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:59am

    "I held back because I knew it may be the type of voluntary commitment that would be attractive to the chairman" of the Federal Communications Commission, Cohen said in a recent interview.

    Umm, its not voluntary if your trying to bride people with it.

     

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  7.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    in a word, no. I have donated thousands of dollars worth of goods and time to charities without taking the tax credits for them.

    Arguing that using low cost internet access for the poor as a bargaining chip in public policy is the same as donating a bag of clothes to Goodwill is asanine.

    When one donates to a charity, they are actually giving up something of value (goods) and getting less value (tax credit) in return.

    What Comcast did here was to hold back something of value (internet access for the poor) in order to get something of more value (NBC).

    In my book, one actually values the public, and the other... not so much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:11am

    Just another ordinary day in Corporate America.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    Doing first post is nothing compared to the rush you get when you do the 57th comment.

    In fact, the arousal you'll feel when you achieve it is such that I think it might be illegal in most countries in the north-eastern hemisphere.

    Some have likened it to having your chin caressed by an angel. Others say that it is like sleeping in the clouds upside-down. Personally, I'd describe it as a "pretty good feeling".

    I can't wait for such an opportunity to present itself again.

    (/stupid comments deserve stupid responses. I hope you learned your lesson :) )

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Mason Wheeler, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:18am

    Re:

    Of course it is. An involuntary bribe is extortion. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    gump, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    Stupid is as stupid does.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:27am

    Re:

    Yup. And it's not a bribe if it's not in cash, either.

    /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    When you donate to charity, do you not ensure you get your tax credits?


    As a matter of habit and ethics, I have been donating 10% of my income to charity for a few decades now. I have never once claimed a tax credit for any of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:30am

    and if any individual can get some credit and a good deal of cash out of performing like a complete arse hole, with no thought for anything or anyone else, that's exactly what they will do

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:31am

    Gosh, Mike, you're turning Populist!

    That may be only because Populism sells, while Plutocracy doesn't.

    "It's hard not to be cynical about politics in general" -- No, it's difficult to be too cynical.

    Now, if instead of cloaking euphemisms such as "regulatory capture", you could use plain language like bribery of gov't officials, it's possible that even I could eventually understand that we may be, in broadest terms, allied against the practices of The Rich. -- But equally, you'd have to analyze enough and come to the conclusion that there's always a class struggle and it's waged by The Rich, and frankly, I doubt you're to that stage yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re: Gosh, Mike, you're turning Populist!

    Another stance where +insane button is needed. Call the white clothing ppl.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    Umm, its not voluntary if your trying to bride people with it.


    Even if you're living in the 18th century and your daughter is so objectionable that you must offer a dowry to get her a respectable suitor, it's still technically voluntary.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    "Sweet, first comment!"

    Hate to tell you but that was the second comment. Just sayin'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re:

    " I have never once claimed a tax credit for any of it."

    That's awesome! You donate to charity and the IRS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Rich, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    Wow, obtuse much?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    dennis deems (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:49am

    Re: Gosh, Mike, you're turning Populist!

    "It's hard not to be cynical about politics in general" -- No, it's difficult to be too cynical.
    As Lily Tomlin said: "I worry that no matter how cynical I become, it's never enough to keep up."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Technically, if you want to look at things that way, I donate to the state & federal government, not the IRS (something I don't mind, honestly). But the other way to look at it is that if I take the deduction, I'm not actually donating at all, I'm just instructing the government to do so.

    The reason that I don't take the deduction, though, has nothing to do with any of that. It has more to do with complexity and privacy. If I were to take the deductions, I'd have to make sure that the charities were actually considered as such by the IRS and I'd have to keep records of the donations.

    Also, I'd have to tell the IRS about them, and it's none of their business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Re: Gosh, Mike, you're turning Populist!

    How, exactly, does one become "allied against the rich?" "The Rich" is not some defined condition, it is an ever-shifting group of human beings with different backgrounds, beliefs, behaviors, ethics, etc. By declaring yourself "against the rich," you are really just declaring yourself a simple-minded collectivist, no better than racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamaphobes, or anyone else who values human beings not by their individuality, but only by how they relate to a specific collectivist group.

    Grow up. The only stage you've reached is immature, entitled, collectivist bigot.

    "Regulatory capture" is the right term because it is precise. It refers to exactly what is going on. And it is essential to call out because regulatory capture can only happen via government regulation. Get rid of government regulation, re-instate liability laws and property rights, remove corporate welfare, corporate safety nets, bailouts, and other risk-rewarding "regulations," and suddenly you have a truly regulated system. A system where business are accountable and liable to consumers. A system where a landowner can sue a corporation for polluting his land instead of waiting for some nebulous government structure to set a corporation-favoring regulation. A system where companies who have irresponsibly risky practices go bankrupt instead of being bailed out to do it again. A system where fraud can be prosecuted as fraud, and not as a slap-on-the-wrist fine.

    There will always be classes. But class warfare only exists when the wealthy gain executive and legal privelege. And that can happen only through the abuse and corruption of an overly-powerful central government.

    You want to be against something? Be against policies and systems that allow this to happen. But don't stand on your high-horse spouting hatred for those who managed to be more successful than you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Capitalism: doing jack shit for the common good since the dawn of time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Steven Leach, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 10:59am

    Proving the US has the Best Politicians Money Can Buy

    While I am sure any investigation into this process will just come up empty, and no one actual broke any laws. The whole situation just shows once again the the U.S.A. has the best politicians that money can buy. When will people STOP voting for incumbents ??? The more often we churn the politicians the less likely the lobbyists will gain influence, since politicians can only get back in office if they please us teh voting public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Pjerky (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    Lol, great comment. And yes it was a stupid comment. It was meant to be. Every once in awhile we get some first commenting comments in here and I thought I would throw one up for the hell of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Pjerky (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    The comment was a comment on my first comment that was indeed the first comment on this story. Sooo, yeah.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 11:12am

    OMG Comcast and the government and the whole world are all so stupid and evil! Thank God Mike Masnick is a Glowing Sphere of Perfection. He is my Savior.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Re:

    Except creating jobs. Who needs the profit motive, right? I'll just break my back working, and give most of it to you because it feels so good.

    Wake up you nitwit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    Yes, this blatant case of regulatory capture and government cronyism is a black eye against the market. Or something.

    *boggle*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re:

    capitalism does not create jobs, jobs create capitalists when people realise that the work others do can make them rich if they position themselves right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Oct 31st, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Gosh, Mike, you're turning Populist!

    "The Rich" is not some defined condition, it is an ever-shifting group of human beings with different backgrounds, beliefs, behaviors, ethics, etc.

    Being part of the "Poor" is mostly a transitional thing. Sure there are some who are permanently poor but a large percentage essentially move up as life goes on, ie. graduates from college, gets promoted, etc. Alternately, the "Rich" are always moving between categories all the time. The Super Rich now were not the Super Rich of the 80's. Sowell covered it quite nicely in this book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You could take the additional savings and donate that too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Oct 31st, 2012 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Entire Government is a Fiddle

    "Wow, obtuse much?"

    Woosh! Your kidding-o-meter is broken.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    azuravian (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    @John Fenderson,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Not just that it's none of their business, but also on the complexity issues. However, I think claiming that taking the deduction is tantamount to instructing the government to donate in your stead is a bit disingenuous. That would only be true if you were taking a tax credit. A deduction, on the other hand, just prevents them from taxing you on that amount. Also, if you took the deductions, you could afford to give 12% or even more to charity, because the extra taxes you're paying could go straight to the charity's coffers instead of the governments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're right, of course. I was being a little bit snarky. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I could, but that wouldn't address the real reasons I don't claim the deduction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I'm not actually donating at all, I'm just instructing the government to do so."

    That only makes sense if you first assume it was always the governments money all along in stark contrast to the reality that it was your money and the government took it by force.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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