City Council to Comcast: You’re Not Welcome in This Town

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Because it's the most-hated company in America, one town
Because of its shitty reputation — which often includes being voted the “most-hated company in America” — one Massachusetts town is looking to keep Comcast out.

Comcast, the biggest cable television company in the United States, is not known for its high customer service marks: The company known for its aggressive retention tactics and substandard quality of service is consistently ranked low on customer satisfaction surveys and often earns the annual title of “most-hated company in America.” Now, one community is using Comcast’s shitty reputation in its quest to keep the cable giant out of town.

On Tuesday, the city council in Worcester, Mass., encouraged city manager Edward Augustus not to approve a license transfer between Charter Communications and Comcast. The transfer of license would allow Comcast to take over Charter’s operations and customers in the community as part of a service swap that is tied to the cable giant’s potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

“It’s a terrible company,” city council member Gary Rosen said of Comcast on Tuesday. “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.”

The city council voted 8-3 to ask Augustus to reject the transfer of license — something that may not be within his power. According to Ars Technica, Comcast’s deplorable customer service record cannot legally be used on a factual basis for denying the license transfer. Comcast need only meet four criteria for the transfer to go through: The company must prove it has the financial, legal, technical and managerial capability to serve the community.

Even though the council lacks the authority to block the transfer, they assured members of the public on Tuesday that their vote was not hollow.

“This is not a paper vote,” city councilwoman Konstantina Lukes said. “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.”

The vote did have impact: On Wednesday, Comcast granted the city a two-week extension on the license transfer deadline. Augustus said the extension was approved so that Comcast and the city could continue addressing concerns made by the city council and members of the public.

“I have heard loud and clear from Worcester residents and the city council their concerns,” Augustus said in a statement. “I have been engaged in fruitful conversations with Comcast regarding these issues, including the vital matters of jobs and consumer protection. In order to continue those discussions, the city has asked for, and Comcast has granted, a two-week extension to the application.”

Charter stands to add more than 1.6 million customers from Comcast as part of a swap agreement with the cable company. The agreement includes the transfer of more than 180,000 Charter customers to Comcast in Massachusetts alone. So far, 43 of 53 Charter areas have approved a license transfer to Comcast.

If the Worcester city manager blocks the license transfer, it would be the first community in Massachusetts to reject Comcast’s bid to take over customers from Charter. If Augustus fails to take any action on the transfer, it will automatically be approved on Oct. 29.

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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