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You Can't Kid a Kidder: Comcast's Cohen May Have Met His Match In FCC's Wheeler

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the until-comcast-hires-wheeler-away dept.

The Almighty Buck 56

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Comcast's top lobbyist, David Cohen, is known to be a savvy political operator, having pushed through the No. 1 U.S. cable operator's landmark acquisition of media giant NBC Universal in 2011. But Alina Selyukh And Liana B. Baker write at Reuters that although Comcast ranks among the top-ten corporate influencers in Washington, having spent $18.8 million on lobbying last year, Cohen may have met his match in Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler headed the cable trade group from 1979 to 1984 and ran the wireless industry association from 1992 to 2004. Since taking over the FCC last November, however, Wheeler has not shied away from stances that have roiled past allies. Wheeler publicly expressed skepticism about a potential merger between wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile in one of his most attention-grabbing moves last February.

'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin. Comcast will formally request an FCC review of the $45.2 billion Time Warner Cable deal later in March. Opponents say the combined company will have too much power over what Americans can watch on television and do online. As FCC chairman, Wheeler has publicly and repeatedly stated his 'unabashed' support for competition. Wheeler has also hired a heavyweight consumer advocate, Gigi Sohn, as a senior adviser. Colleagues of Wheeler, a published historian, also highlight his subject expertise. 'He knows these issues like the back of his hand,' says one FCC official who works with Wheeler. 'He knows how the business runs. He knows these people, he knows what they think and what policies they want.'"

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Nationalise. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46493943)

You can't fight the tide of regulatory capture, and it's always most efficient and least risky to consolidate repeatedly until a monopoly is reached.

So, it might as well be owned by US residents rather than a few shareholders.

Re:Nationalise. (3, Insightful)

sudo (194998) | about 8 months ago | (#46494071)

well that aint going to happen, unless the socialists take over (not in this lifetime)

Re:Nationalise. (3, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#46494149)

> one FCC official who works with Wheeler. 'He knows how the business runs. He knows these people, he knows what they think and what policies they want.'

yes, because 'these people' paid to have him put there. he can't be a completely obvious shill, but he already has shown his colors w.r.t. net neutrality "we'll just wait to see what happens without it first"

Re:Nationalise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46496235)

he can't be a completely obvious shill, he already has shown his colors w.r.t. net neutrality "we'll just wait to see what happens without it first"

The only obvious shill here is you.

Here is a citation [slashdot.org] that shows the courts struck down net neutrality rules from the FCC.

And here's a citation [slashdot.org] where the FCC tries again.

So tell us, Mr Shill, where's your citation for that phoney-baloney quote?

Re:Nationalise. (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#46496433)

Fine, it's not a direct quote, but it's basically what he's saying.

http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/15/why-fcc-chairman-tom-wheeler-isnt-big-on-net-neutrality-rules/ [venturebeat.com]

Some quotes from it [which presumably are real Wheeler quotes]:
“It is important not to prohibit or inhibit conduct that is efficiency producing and competition enhancing,” he wrote. “It also is important not to permit conduct that reduces efficiency, competition and utility, including the values that go beyond the material.”
“How we encourage economic growth using these [broadband] networks is crucial. And the key to that is competition, competition, competition,” Wheeler said during an event at CES 2014 last week. “Because competition is so much better than even the best, wisest, well-intentioned policy maker.”

net neutrality was initiated before his watch, but died in court during his watch, since he is in charge of the FCC. Beginning some bullshit public comment, then industry comment, then hearing process is basically a 2-4 year stall to make it seem like they are working on it. He has repeatedly indicated he doesn't want net neutrality, he's just hoping that none of the big boys that put him there do something really stupid, like totally block Netflix from their subscribers, so he won't be forced into it by a huge public outcry.

Re:Nationalise. (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#46496463)

but it would not surprise me if he does publish something with a title including the words "Net Neutrality", but which doesn't actually include regulations that somebody that is not associated with a large ISP reading them will think "yeah, this will do it".

Re:Nationalise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497131)

Fine, it's not a direct quote, but it's basically what he's saying.

http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/15/why-fcc-chairman-tom-wheeler-isnt-big-on-net-neutrality-rules/ [venturebeat.com]

Some quotes from it [which presumably are real Wheeler quotes]:
“It is important not to prohibit or inhibit conduct that is efficiency producing and competition enhancing,” he wrote. “It also is important not to permit conduct that reduces efficiency, competition and utility, including the values that go beyond the material.”
“How we encourage economic growth using these [broadband] networks is crucial. And the key to that is competition, competition, competition,” Wheeler said during an event at CES 2014 last week. “Because competition is so much better than even the best, wisest, well-intentioned policy maker.”

net neutrality was initiated before his watch, but died in court during his watch, since he is in charge of the FCC. Beginning some bullshit public comment, then industry comment, then hearing process is basically a 2-4 year stall to make it seem like they are working on it. He has repeatedly indicated he doesn't want net neutrality, he's just hoping that none of the big boys that put him there do something really stupid, like totally block Netflix from their subscribers, so he won't be forced into it by a huge public outcry.

Which is why the best solution for everyone is for the big boys that put him there do something really stupid, like totally block Netflix from their subscribers, so he'll be forced into Net Neutrality by a huge public outcry. That and a meeting of the RIAA & MPAA happening right when the 'Big One' happens. Sadly, that seems to be the only way to solve the problem.

Re:Nationalise. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 7 months ago | (#46497143)

He can be an obvious shill. He just needs good PR people who can put this "insight" spin on his experience. He will be sucking at the MPAA's tit again soon enough.

This is all Joe Biden's doing. He brought the Hollywood money and bought some good appointments with it. He got Department of Justice too, and so we killed Aaron Swartz and the FBI invaded New Zealand to get Kim Dotcom.

Re:Nationalise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497835)

It is simple, if they want the deal to go thru then they need to relinquish their last mile and half of the CO. This new utility/highly regulated monopoly sole purpose would be to manage the wire over the last mile, and provide no services. A true dumb pipe. Then anybody could come into the CO and provide services over the last mile to each home.

This is known as com-pe-tition.

Good! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46493945)

Stop sniffing my packets!

Comcast owns NBC? (2, Funny)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 8 months ago | (#46493967)

Wow....what happened to Kabletown?

So what you're saying is ... (2, Insightful)

LordKaT (619540) | about 8 months ago | (#46493979)

... that he's not gunning for a c-level position at Comcast, Sprint, or T-Mobile? Guess we'll have to see how favorable he acts to Verizon and AT&T.

Re:So what you're saying is ... (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 8 months ago | (#46494523)

"So what you're saying is that he's not gunning for a c-level position at Comcast, Sprint, or T-Mobile? Guess we'll have to see how favorable he acts to Verizon and AT&T."

The really telling thing here is that he said he was "skeptical" of the idea. Until the last decade or so, any FCC chairman would have publicly rolled on the floor laughing at the idea.

That should cause you some concern.

never trust an ex-lobbyist (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#46493991)

You can be certain anything he does is benefiting those who give him money, and it's not you.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (1)

sudo (194998) | about 8 months ago | (#46494049)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.
But instead of money they are currying favor for future positions for those companies/lobbys.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#46494093)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.

So true. How can you tell a politician is lying?

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494211)

If their mouth is open!

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494213)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.

So true. How can you tell a politician is lying?

He is talking. That's a sure sign.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (1, Funny)

EvilSS (557649) | about 8 months ago | (#46494635)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.

So true. How can you tell a politician is lying?

Trick question, they are never not lying.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 8 months ago | (#46496511)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.

So true. How can you tell a politician is lying?

Trick question, they are never not lying.

What if a politician says: "I am lying."

A politician is always lying which means he can't be lying like he says he is. He's telling the truth. But if he's telling the truth, then saying "I'm lying" is a lie. So he's lying. But if he's lying about lying then he's telling the truth. But.... *brain explodes*

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#46496971)

The levels of dishonesty are deep.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 7 months ago | (#46502231)

What if a politician says: "I am lying."

A politician is always lying which means he can't be lying like he says he is. He's telling the truth. But if he's telling the truth, then saying "I'm lying" is a lie. So he's lying. But if he's lying about lying then he's telling the truth. But.... *brain explodes*

Not a problem. That is one phrase you can be sure no politician will every say, when referring to himself.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (0)

sconeu (64226) | about 8 months ago | (#46496731)

yeah, but its a similar situations with politicians.

So true. How can you tell a politician is lying?

His lips move.

Re:never trust an ex-lobbyist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46496749)

Which lips?

professional lobbying (3, Insightful)

sudo (194998) | about 8 months ago | (#46494015)

I just see this as bittersweet, that it takes a former lobbyist to be a match against another lobbyist.
Makes you think how many bad decisions the government have made due to maneuvering from professional lobbying groups.

Re:professional lobbying (2)

hey! (33014) | about 8 months ago | (#46494245)

Well, "set a thief to catch a thief."

One of the reasons for the dysfunction we have in Washington is that all the rules that are supposed to protect the public interest have become so complicated that they actually promote crony capitalism. You need someone who knows how to hack the system to catch people hacking the system.

Re:professional lobbying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46497007)

See: Every failed military procurement program since the 1950s

Re:professional lobbying (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 7 months ago | (#46497139)

All of them. Banning lobbying would solve numerous problems.At least for my grandchildren.

Re:professional lobbying (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 7 months ago | (#46497151)

Do you know why dairy farmers don't farm lizards instead of cows? It's because lizards don't give milk. The man is who he is.

Collapse of this civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494025)

can't come soon enough. The amount of resources squandered on who gets to send bits on a wire when all we need is food for all...

Re:Collapse of this civilization (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 7 months ago | (#46497141)

can't come soon enough. The amount of resources squandered on who gets to send bits on a wire when all we need is food for all...

Food for all isn't possible unless everyone grows their own. If you truly believe what you say how much food do you donate to your local homeless shelter? Do you even know where your local one is?

Pretty Thin Ray of Hope (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 8 months ago | (#46494077)

'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin.

So this is what we've been reduced to? The disconsolate wish, having turned the regulatory body over to one of the kleptarchs [wikipedia.org] , that he will discover not only his duty to society but also unbiased objectivity, and turn on his own? A ray of hope so thin strains my credulity.

Re:Pretty Thin Ray of Hope (3, Interesting)

careysub (976506) | about 8 months ago | (#46494533)

... A ray of hope so thin strains my credulity.

Try the cynical angle on this. This deal is a howler - he would be hanging out an "Industry Shill" shingle at the start of his tenure if he gave this merger a pass. A truly smart savvy operative would use this to make his "public rep", nixing an outrageous scheme, and giving a nice speech about it. Then with his newly minted regulatory cred, he can give a pass on tons of other stuff and still argue that he is working for the people.

Re:Pretty Thin Ray of Hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46496997)

... A ray of hope so thin strains my credulity.

Try the cynical angle on this. This deal is a howler - he would be hanging out an "Industry Shill" shingle at the start of his tenure if he gave this merger a pass. A truly smart savvy operative would use this to make his "public rep", nixing an outrageous scheme, and giving a nice speech about it. Then with his newly minted regulatory cred, he can give a pass on tons of other stuff and still argue that he is working for the people.

Actually, they tend to vigorously pursue someone you wouldn't expect a shill to go after. For example, in telecom going after TMOBILE. So you get branded "not a telecom shill" when what you are really doing is shilling for ATT and Comcast - a diofferent member of the industry and a member of another industry.

Re:Pretty Thin Ray of Hope (2)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | about 8 months ago | (#46494541)

'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin.

So this is what we've been reduced to? The disconsolate wish, having turned the regulatory body over to one of the kleptarchs [wikipedia.org] , that he will discover not only his duty to society but also unbiased objectivity, and turn on his own? A ray of hope so thin strains my credulity.

I don't know, if done right it can go really well. See Joseph Kennedy and the initial SEC. He may actually be on the up and up, only time will tell.

Re:Pretty Thin Ray of Hope (2)

careysub (976506) | about 8 months ago | (#46494919)

'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin.

So this is what we've been reduced to? The disconsolate wish, having turned the regulatory body over to one of the kleptarchs [wikipedia.org] , that he will discover not only his duty to society but also unbiased objectivity, and turn on his own? A ray of hope so thin strains my credulity.

I don't know, if done right it can go really well. See Joseph Kennedy and the initial SEC. He may actually be on the up and up, only time will tell.

Too true. People can surprise you. But there is a reason why it is a surprise.

All you need to know about the deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494099)

Chuck Schumer's brother is running it on Wall St.

Lobbying... Or corruption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46494255)

that's a fine line right there. We added a 10k max restriction here to prevent this kind of thing.

Cable is too locked down. (5, Insightful)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 8 months ago | (#46494295)

Cable is too locked down. I consider myself a Cord Cutter. Because now, Every channel on my local Cable company is Encrypted QAM. If back in 1995, you had told people that every single channel, including re-broadcast Broadcast TV, in both the US and Canada would be "Scrambled" like HBO, Cinemax, Disney, and Showtime, requiring a cable box be present in every room, and that VCRs would be next to useless (you can still use a VCR, technically.) and that we would be paying $150+ in bills for it, we would be in outrage mode and be clamoring for revolution in both the US and Canada.

If the FCC really had a backbone (and it's Canadian a backbone, they would apply a Federal Regulation that all Cable must be decrypted and there would now be a universal access fee of around $65 monthly, .Any Cable or content provider that refused to comply being subject to Federal investigation, arrest, and trial on charges of money laundering, wire fraud, including it's board of directors and CEO

Re:Cable is too locked down. (1)

SirAudioMan (2836381) | about 8 months ago | (#46494539)

I agree with all your comments. I live in Ontario, Canada and most cableco's in Ontario (the big ones anyhow) encrypt almost all their channels using encrypted QAM. So they force you to buy/rent one of their expensive cable boxes just to access the channels ON TOP of paying for the channels themselves. Basically, built in tuners are useless if using cable.

Both the FCC (and it's equivalent in Canada, the CRTC) do very little to rein in the big telcos. I got tired of paying $150/month for digital cable and cut the cord. I now use Netflix and have recently started using OTA to pick up about a dozen channels in my area.

Mark

Re:Cable is too locked down. (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#46494921)

In Canada you can buy the box with out the outlet or mirroring fees.

and cable used to make a big deal unlike satellite you don't need a box at each tv.

Re:Cable is too locked down. (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 7 months ago | (#46497175)

If back in 1995, you had told people that every single channel, including re-broadcast Broadcast TV, in both the US and Canada would be "Scrambled" like HBO, Cinemax, Disney, and Showtime, requiring a cable box be present in every room, and that VCRs would be next to useless (you can still use a VCR, technically.) and that we would be paying $150+ in bills for it, we would be in outrage mode

Before '95, people EXPECTED to need a cable box on every TV, just because TV tuners didn't have a "cable" mode to tune in channels above 13.

You can't really fault cable companies for doing it too much, since DirecTV/DishNet get to encrypt all their local channels and force you to rent a box from them to watch... And works just as poorly with your VCR...

Not to mention that encryption across the board allows them to completely eliminate the installation step, which is an extremely common source of complaints and frustration from customers.

And complaining that your VCR doesn't work in 2014??? You might as well yell at the cashier at Wal-mart for not carrying blank 8-track tapes... You can't even BUY a VCR in stores today that has an ATSC/QAM tuner in it at all!

Complaining about your DVR not working would be a more reasonable complaint, but CableCard is an option available on Tivos and the like.

And frankly, it's ridiculous to pay for cable or satellite, when the overwhelming majority of people in the US can get a huge number of local broadcast channels, with content far better than those hundreds of cable channels, with just a modest antenna system, costing less than $200 up-front... Perhaps 3 months of cable/satellite subscription fees.

As a result, OTA is growing, especially with younger people:

"The number of households relying on OTA reception only is also growing, [...] Growth is especially strong amongst younger households,"

"One in five young households never bothered to get a TV subscription to begin with."

"Also, 28 percent of all households with a head of household under the age of 35 use an antenna instead of a pay-TV subscription."

http://www.tvtechnology.com/rf... [tvtechnology.com]

overblown (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#46494383)

Ooh, what a shrewd and wise character. I'm sure nothing gets past him! Here's what the major hint for me was, personally: EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE US IS AGAINST IT! All media coverage, every customer, even other countries are saying what a crock of monopoly bullshit it is. What a hard decision he has to make! I hope he's as clever as they say to figure this one out!

Re:overblown (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 8 months ago | (#46496771)

in one corner a huge pile of cash in the other EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE USA. they nearly always select the huge pile of cash.

Learning lessons from the failed Bell breakup (4, Interesting)

mrsam (12205) | about 8 months ago | (#46494955)

I've been saying this for many years. The reason why US broadband sucks is because the original breakup of Ma Bell has mostly failed. The fault line of Ma Bell's breakup was set to be the local service vs long distance. What should've happened instead was that the Bell system should've been broken up at the physical plant level. ILECs should've been left owning nothing more than the physical plant, selling access to it, at tariffed rates, to any CLEC that wants to provide voice or data service over the last mile.

I'm at pessimist at heart. At best, we can hope that this mega merger is going to get canned. But of course, one can dream about FCC saying to Comcast and Time Warner: "You want to merge, ok, but you end up owning only the physical plant, and anyone who wants to provide video, voice, or data service, can pay you for maintaining the coax, and other than that, butt out."

Re:Learning lessons from the failed Bell breakup (1)

l0n3s0m3phr34k (2613107) | about 8 months ago | (#46496423)

I completely agree, and have often echoed the same thing about ILEC's and the "local plant" situation. Really, the layer 1 should be ran by the municipality itself, and leave layer 2 and up for "competition" Then we could have a specific part of our "bill" be only for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, so all customers in an area pay into the same cost center that is then used for upgrades. Cities could then also to bonds for fiber, and the "content delivery" companies would actually want more bandwidth because then their making their profit off of actually deilvery itself, not by refusing to do upgrades and just pocketing the money that was supposed to do it.

Re:Learning lessons from the failed Bell breakup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46500053)

Really, the layer 1 should be ran by the municipality itself ... Then we could have a specific part of our "bill" be only for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades ...

You can bet your ass people would be crying foul about having to pay a tv tax when they "dont watch tv". But yes, the infrastructure SHOULD be owned by the municipality. Internet, at least, should be considered just the same as roads - something our society needs, and its definitely in the public interest to pay taxes to support and upgrade it.

I think you misread (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46508137)

You would only pay the tax if you used internet, phones or television? He stated a fixed cost for infrastructure in the bill, not an extra tax.

Re:Learning lessons from the failed Bell breakup (1)

jareth-0205 (525594) | about 7 months ago | (#46497863)

What should've happened instead was that the Bell system should've been broken up at the physical plant level. ILECs should've been left owning nothing more than the physical plant, selling access to it, at tariffed rates, to any CLEC that wants to provide voice or data service over the last mile.

Interestingly this is roughly what happened in the UK with voice and data telecoms. BT (as the previously nationalised monopoly) is left with all the infrastructure, and the services on top, but they have to run them as separate businesses. Other companies have the right to piggy back on the last mile, and install their network hardware in BT exchanges. It worked very well for the ADSL-era, though an argument can be made that BT have wrested a bit too much influence again now that we're moving to fibre. Heavily regulated private business *can* work...

I want to see telecos try to demand fees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495295)

Despite aggressive warnings by the EFF for over a decade, the cable, tel, and cell companies have not done full blown blocking of web sites. Netflix has seen throttling, but it uses a large amount of bandwidth. Even the average American, and by extension average Congressman, can see that a merged Comcast will be close to a cable monopoly.

I want to see what Congress will actually do if the Comcast merger goes through, or the major teleco companies actually demand 'protection fees' from web sites that do NOT use a large amount of bandwidth.

Article is beyond delusional. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46495613)

Wheeler won't regulate. He wants a budget to work with and if he plays ball then congress will strip him of a budget. He's not the only one with influence on these decisions.

What are you thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46496483)

Savvy, Looking out for consumers. This is the same industry shill who gutted net neutrality? Stop using BETA, it obviously rotting your brain.

In the end... (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 8 months ago | (#46496485)

we will have to see what he does about net neutrality.

This is why former media employees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497277)

... shouldn't get involved in media regulatory bodies.

In Canada, our CRTC is run by current and former employees of Bell, Rogers, Telus and Cogeco. Their corrupt nature reeks every time someone pushes for more openness in our media environments.

If you want proof, just look at how they treated Wind Mobile and Teksavvy.

fJUDalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46499777)

fJUDalism

Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46501205)

Cohen and company in an attempt to potray themsemselves as the underdogs before they swoop in and take over the last vestiges of USian free market competition are playing up the capibilities of formidable and capeable FCC operators. No light will be shed on the fact that all aspects of our government are in fact paid for and bought out by multinational corporation and foreign sovreign powers. It is always good to throw the simple citizens a bone of hope before the relentless juggernaught of tyranny marches over the bones of their children.

Always remember that it takes a village to raise children. People who believe in families are all dangerous subversives and must be watched.

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