We’ve been stuck at home a lot this year.
Maybe you’ve been working at your Netflix list.
Perhaps you’ve discovered The Mandalorian on Disney+.
Quarantines, lockdowns, and general anxiety about going out in public have been boons to streaming media companies.
So at a time when unemployment rates are soaring, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and people have more time to watch television, some of the most profitable outlets are doing what we might expect them to do at this time of pain and crisis–raise their rates.
Just as Disney stocks hit an all-time high, the company plans on unveiling some new shows at a higher subscription rate.
Not to be outdone, one of the most profitable media monopolies, Comcast, providing millions the bandwidth necessary to stream media–as well as students what they require to complete remote learning–is extending bandwidth usage fees involving a monthly 1.2 terra byte data cap to the 39 states in which it operates.
There’s a reasonable argument one could make about these companies simply responding to the need for increased usage.
Except Comcast received $861 million in federal tax subsidies the first year of Donald Trump’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” the $1.5 trillion-dollar permanent tax cut to corporations and the wealthy.
So, does it really need to raise its rates?
Especially now, when so many are out of work and barely scraping two nickels together?
When children are confined to bedrooms instead of classrooms to complete their schoolwork?
Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted:
This is why monopolies are bad.
Comcast can arbitrarily exploit us for profit during a pandemic just because it feels like it.
Meanwhile, Comcast collects tons of tax breaks and government subsidies.
Comcast should be broken up. https://t.co/z4tsYChEXi
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 24, 2020
As the nation locked down in March, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recommended internet service providers (ISP) sign onto the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” that sought to “promote connectivity”; i.e., relax data cap policies.
It expired in June.
It is unclear why data caps are necessary considering Comcast shut off the system used to throttle heavy internet use because its network could handle it all.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) commented:
“Data caps have always been about socking consumers with extra fees to pad Big Cable’s profit margins. Even after the COVID-19 emergency passes, ISPs should do away with unnecessary data caps.”
Wyden sponsored a bill in 2012 seeking to limit data caps, but, like so many other pieces of progressive legislation, it never made it to the Senate floor.
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that year:
“[The] telecom industry spent more than $97.6 million on lobbying and hired 603 lobbyists to argue on its behalf–more than half of the industry’s lobbyists were former government employees.”
Comcast donors have given Democratic (yes, Democratic) lawmakers more than $25 million.
The Biden administration might–might–tamp down on this once and for all.
But as The Daily Poster reports:
“During the presidential primaries, 17 top Comcast executives maxed out their federal contributions to Biden, while Pete Buttigieg was the only other Democratic contender to receive a contribution from a Comcast executive (and he received only one), according to reporting from Sludge in January. Comcast’s senior executive vice president and top lobbyist, David Cohen, hosted Biden’s kickoff fundraiser for his presidential campaign in 2019.”
Comcast–the parent company of the so-called “liberal” news networks NBC and MSNBC— enjoys $981,887,541 in state and local subsidies, and $1,243,713 in federal subsidies.
It boasts almost 28 million residential customers.
Yet it demands more money at the absolutely worst time.
Image credit: Wikipedia