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.”
The City Council in Worcester, MA does not want Comcast coming anywhere near its residents. The cable company is seeking a license transfer from Charter as part of a customer swap that’s tied to its purchase of Time Warner Cable, but the council is trying to block it.
“It’s a terrible company,” City Councilor Gary Rosen said after a vote last night, pointing to Comcast’s “deplorable and substandard” customer service in other municipalities. “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.”
The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester reported today:
The vote is advisory only, the paper wrote. If Augustus takes no action today, the transfer will automatically be approved. If he rejects the transfer, Comcast is expected to appeal the decision to the state cable commission.
Comcast may not have to take it that far. According to Deputy City Solicitor Michael E. Traynor, the transfer cannot be blocked based upon Comcast’s customer service record. “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, Mr. Traynor said,” the Telegram & Gazette wrote. “He said Comcast’s customer service record does not fall within the standard of measuring the company’s management experience.”
City Councilor Konstantina Lukes said the vote should send a message to the Federal Communications Commission, which could block the Comcast/TWC merger. “This is not a paper vote; this is not an empty vote,” she said. “This is a very clear vote that we are not going to tolerate the kind of responses we got from Charter and Comcast.”
Councilor Frederick Rushton acknowledged that “We are just bit players in a big play. It may feel good to vote this, but it may very well end up having no effect.”
Nationwide, Comcast would gain 1.6 million customers from Charter while Charter would gain 1.6 million customers from Time Warner Cable. In Massachusetts, Comcast would add 182,999 customers in 53 communities, the newspaper report said.