I find myself concerned about the recent article I read on Philly.com regarding Comcast and its lobbying efforts. Comcast seems to have a lot of time on their hands, and, according to the article, in 2013 they occupied that time by spending $18.8 million on lobbying fees. It appears that Comcast lobbies not only for issues directly related to their business, but they also have worked to influence bills centered on immigration reform, homeland security and college aid, according to reports. And if it isn’t enough for Comcast to dominate in the cable and internet industry, it now owns TV Networks (NBC and Telemundo), a movie studio (Universal), theme parks and sports channels. And don’t forget the proposed $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable (Senate committee hearings begin soon).
So why am I concerned about Comcast and its lobbying efforts? Because it’s business companies like Comcast, who want to have their hand in everything and, directly or indirectly, to squeeze out the small business owners – and then choke-hold the public. When Comcast lobbied against the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which provides government loans to help Internet companies expand broadband service to far-flung rural areas, they were trying to limit which companies got loans from the government so they wouldn’t have to compete with them. This program is to support smaller, community based Internet providers, so of course Comcast felt compelled to lobby against this Act. Tom Wacker, vice president of government affairs for NTCA-the Rural Broadband Association, fought against the efforts of Comcast and didn’t understand why they would even be concerned about the Act. “Don’t they have bigger fish to fry?” he must have wondered. Comcast already built up their broadband network without the aid of the government, so now they want restrictions as to who gets the support from the government. And of course, Comcast got what they wanted. They got tighter rules that will prevent overlap and steer the loans away from where they’re needed most.
That is just one of the many bills that Comcast had its hands in to mold the outcome to their favor. “Comcast monitors over 300-400 bills every session of Congress that may affect their business directly or indirectly,” the article continues. Comcast has no limits when it comes doing what’s best for them. Comcast now wants to control not only the cable and internet industry, but the laws governing so many issues seemingly unrelated to their field, but that will affect their bottom line. “Comcast is almost without equal the most effective lobbying force in this industry in Washington,” a former senior staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee says.
Among the bills for which Comcast is lobbying is Immigration Reform, which will affect foreign visitors who are an important part of Comcast-owned theme-park business, the “Say No to Drug Ads” Act, which would prevent drug companies from using their marketing expenses as a tax deduction, which is allowed under current tax law. Pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest advertisers on television, and restricting the tax benefits to those companies from those advertising expenses will certainly affect the bottom lines of both Comcast and NBC.
Additional legislation that Comcast has its eyes on is the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act: this bill is aimed to block colleges from using federal education aid for advertising or marketing. This, as with the “Say No to Drug Ads” Act, would in turn affect ad time sold by Comcast and NBC.
When it comes to internet and cable service, it’s difficult to find many positive things to say about Comcast. Their customer service is horrible, and even with the onslaught of recent negative publicity and an open acknowledgement by a Comcast executive as to the lackluster service, the situation has not yet improved to adequate levels. Yet Comcast can spend $18.8 million dollars on lobbying in Washington on bills that indirectly affect their main product, Internet and Cable. So, how about they focus on fixing their own problems before taking over Washington?