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TheStreet Open House

Comcast Time Warner Deal Should Have Protestors in the Streets

NEW YORK (TheStreet) --When Comcast  (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable  (TWC) announced their proposed $45.2 billion merger last month, I may have been too stunned to muster the necessary outrage.

But as more details emerge about the proposed land grab, the clearer it becomes that this transaction takes corporate thievery to a new level.

I am referring to the nearly $80 million in compensation for Robert D. Marcus, who became CEO of Time Warner at the beginning of 2014. That's right. Regulatory filings released Thursday reveal that Marcus will collect almost $80 million for selling a company he ran for a whole six weeks.

Still, the effects of the deal on U.S. infrastructure are what should be our primary concern. If this transaction goes through, it will restrict access to the Internet for consumers and small businesses, prevent important upgrades to our wireless connections and increase costs to consumers.

The U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in providing high-speed low cost broadband service to businesses and consumers and the Comcast Time Warner deal would only slow things down further.

As Harvard Professor and former Obama adviser Susan Crawford argues, if Comcast gets its acquisition approved, it

will be serving the interests of its shareholders by keeping investments in its network as low as possible -- in particular, making no move to provide the world-class fiber-optic connections that are now standard and cheap in other countries -- and extracting as much rent as it can, in all kinds of ways. Comcast, for purposes of today's public , is calling itself a "cable company." It no longer is. Comcast sells infrastructure subject to neither competition nor a cop on the beat.

We also know from Thursday's filing that Comcast doesn't see this deal as inevitable as it would like us to believe it does. My colleague Antoine Gara points out that the cable giant would only agree to the acquisition if it didn't have to pay a penalty in case the deal isn't approved.

My back yard in Brooklyn is a testament to the deregulatory fervor that has gripped our nation's telecommunications infrastructure. The tangle of cables and wires running from house to house is a frightening sight. When one of those cables came down in a storm last year, we called Cablevision and prayed they would send a repairman the way ancient civilizations prayed to the rain gods. We were praying, of course, because Cablevision has no competition in our market and so can do whatever they want. They sent a repairman, an outside contractor of course because the fewer full time employees they have the better for their shareholders, and I spent about two hours of my weekend holding the ladder for this poor guy, since I didn't see any alternative to getting my problem solved.

Similarly, the incomprehensibility of the cable bill is a longstanding joke. Why are we laughing? To keep ourselves from crying, because though this is America and all that, we have no choice of cable provider, just as we have no choice of mobile service provider.

In case anyone wants to tell me that I do have a choice of mobile service provider, I say this: everyone in New York knows Verizon  (VZ) is the only mobile provider that has decent reception. This is a choice? And yet I am sure that if regulators approve this Comcast Time Warner deal we will soon enough have a Verizon Comcast merger stuffed down our throats.

But Verizon Comcast really will be necessary. Just think of all the telecommunications and cable executives sitting around with nothing to do that figure out how to get paid more money for less work than Robert D. Marcus.

--Written by Dan Freed in New York

Follow @dan_freed


Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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