Business

Top Comcast Critic Offers Free Cable for Clever Remixes

As Comcast attempts to push through a merger with Time Warner Cable, a consumer watchdog group that opposes the plan is giving new meaning to the phrase "grassroots advocacy" by holding an offbeat contest based on viral recordings of the company's infamous customer-support calls.

A leading supporter of net neutrality, and therefore a leading critic of Comcast’s proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, has an idea to power its message: Drop a few remixes.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge announced a contest it calls Recast Comcast. The idea goes like this: With the cable giant’s customer support inspiring publicly shared tales of woe, most notably from AOL executive Ryan Block, the group is encouraging the public to create new creative works using recordings of the calls as raw material. The works could take  many forms—new songs, interpretive dance, comedy routines, or just about anything else.

“This contest challenges everyone to remix these various recordings into something amazing and hopes to create something positive out of many hours spent on Comcast customer service calls,” according to a Public Knowledge press release.

Meredith Whipple, digital content associate at the organization, said in the statement that the merger would make matters worse for consumers. “With less competition, this combined company will have even less incentive to treat their customers better,” Whipple said.

The winner of the contest will get his or her last Comcast bill (up to $200) paid for by Public Knowledge. Submissions are being accepted until September 18. Comcast hasn’t commented on the contest.

Merger Draws big Reaction

The proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger has been a political hot potato, and not just because of the customer-support criticism (which led to a series by The Verge that relies on anonymous insider accounts from the company’s current and past employees).

Until this week the Federal Communications Commission had been taking public comments on the merger between the two largest cable companies in the country. The comments came from varying sources: Dozens of city mayors supported the merger due, in part, to the positive effect on their communities of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which provides low-cost internet access to families in need. But Patrick Gottsch, founder of the rural television network RFD-TV, has motivated fans of the network to oppose the move on the grounds that it could diminish the reach of niche programming.

The Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance, a trade organization composed of midsize telecommunications companies, also opposed the merger, claiming it would “create a mammoth entity with unprecedented market power.” And Consumers Union led 64 other organizations in opposing the merger, saying it is not in TV viewers’ best interests.

In a blog post this week, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said the merger should be approved, pushing back against some of the company’s more vocal critics, including Consumers Union, for what he said were flawed arguments or unrelated business agendas.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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