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California Utilities Commissioner Calls For Rejection Of Time Warner Cable Deal


With Comcast set to take over Time Warner Cable’s millions of California customers, state regulators there have been scrutinizing the deal to see how it would affect consumers. Earlier this year, the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) suggested a number of conditions that would make the merger more acceptable, but today a CPUC commissioner publicly called for the state to block the marriage of Comcast and TWC, at least in California.

Mike Florio, one of four commissioners and a president who make up the CPUC leadership, issued an alternate proposal [PDF] that would deny the transfer of TWC operations in California to Comcast. It also proposes denying transfer of control of some Bright House and Charter systems in the state to the merged Comcast/TWC.


“The proposed merger would create the largest broadband service provider in the United States,” reads the proposal, pointing out that the combined companies would control around 40% of the broadband market in the U.S., and that this percentage would be higher if you go by the recently up-revised definition of “broadband” to mean 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps up. “In addition, the merger would more than double the size of Comcast’s footprint in California, increasing the number of California households served by Comcast from approximately 34 percent to 84 percent,” much higher than the national average of around 60%.


If the merger is allowed, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, which measures market concentration within an industry, for fixed broadband service in the U.S. (7,895) would be more than three times the level at which a market is considered “highly concentrated” (2,500). An HHI of 10,000 is considered a full monopoly. Florio contends that, “just based on the significant increase in HHI this merger should be denied.”


And that’s just for any sort of broadband service. When you factor in the higher-speed Internet access (25 Mbps and up), the proposal states that “Comcast will have a monopoly in approximately 78 percent of census blocks.”


Furthermore, contends Florio, “the transfer of Charter customers to Comcast in California… will eliminate another competitor in a market that is already lacking in competition.”


While Comcast and TWC might not compete with each other anywhere in California, the existence of two major providers has allowed the state to compare the two in terms of reliability, customer service, prices, and service offerings “in order to gauge the companies’ relative performances and contribution to the state.”


But, as Florio notes, “eliminating this benchmark will harm consumers’ ability to compare suppliers’ relative performance and prices and enhance Comcast’s already substantial ability to set the bar for consumers’ expectations.”


Speaking of which, the proposal points out that consumers have come to expect very little from either TWC or Comcast.


It calls out recent J.D. Power rankings of ISPs, where Comcast’s Xfinity came in 7th place out of 8 providers in the West region and achieved the lowest possible scores in 4 out of 5 categories.


“Time Warner is slightly above at #6, while Charter was closer to the top at #4,” notes the proposal. “Looking back over a longer period from 2009-2014, in five of the last six years J.D. Power’s studies assigned Comcast and Charter Communications a sub-average score for Overall Customer Satisfaction. In each of the six years from 2009-2014, Time Warner failed to earn one average mark for overall customer satisfaction.”


Not to mention the American Customer Satisfaction Index, where Comcast, Charter and TWC bring up the rear among ISPs and among all consumer-facing companies in the U.S.


These are just a few of the problems brought up in the proposed denial of the service transfer. CPUC will be holding a public hearing regarding the merger on April 14 in Los Angeles. The commission is expected to vote on the deal as early as May.


The release of the proposed denial was applauded by opponents of the Comcast/TWC merger, including our colleagues at Consumers Union, whose objections to the deal are noted in Florio’s proposal.


“This mega merger is a lousy deal for California and the nation,” said Michael McCauley of Consumer Union. “We can’t afford to let one corporation have so much control over our choices and how much we’ll pay to connect and communicate.”


“California creators, innovators and now regulators are coming to realize what consumers have long known: allowing the two largest cable companies to merge would stifle innovation and choke off creativity,” said Todd O’Boyle, Director of Media and Democracy for Common Cause.


The Writers Guild of America, West has been very vocal of its concerns about the merger and today was no different.


“Handing Comcast a near-monopoly in high-speed Internet service in California threatens continued progress towards a more diverse and competitive media landscape,” reads a statement from the WGA. “The decision correctly recognizes that the merger would cause too much harm to Californians, and no conditions can effectively mitigate these harms.”


If CPUC voted to deny the transfer of TWC service to Comcast in California, it wouldn’t kill the deal outright. More than likely, Comcast would go to court to challenge the state’s authority to restrict the acquisition, as control of the L.A. market is one of the main reasons it is purchasing TWC.


In the end, California may ultimately be able to use the threat of a lengthy legal battle as leverage to get Comcast to agree to merger conditions that would benefit the state. In the draft conditions released in February, the CPUC recommended 25 conditions — a number of them involving improvements to Comcast’s Internet Essentials program for low-income consumers. Thus far, Comcast has objected to making Essentials easier to access and remain enrolled in.





by Chris Morran via Consumerist

10 citas célebres sobre el Diseño #infografia #infographic #design #citas #quotes

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10 citas célebres sobre el Diseño #infografia #infographic #design #citas #quotes

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10 citas célebres sobre el Diseño

10 citas célebres sobre el Diseño





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Cuánto se conectan online los adolescentes (USA) #infografia #infographic

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Cuánto se conectan online los adolescentes (USA) #infografia #infographic

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Infographic: 1 in 4 Teens Are Online Almost Constantly | Statista

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Can Danish Butter Cookies Come From Indonesia?

51-FGrJGNOLWhen is a Danish butter cookie not a Danish butter cookie? When it’s made in Indonesia, as Danisa cookies are. The Campbell Soup Company, which happens to own a competing brand of “Danish” butter cookies, recently complained about Danisa’s origins to the National Advertising Division, a self-regulation board where companies sort out their ad disputes before state or federal governments get involved.


The NAD’s investigation was sort of an existential meditation on the nature of cookie names. The Food and Drug Administration does have a published definition of what a “butter cookie” is: the only shortening ingredient used in the product can be butter. Anything else is a “butter flavored cookie.” That was part of Campbell Soup’s objection to the product: they performed lab tests on the cookies and found fat inside the cookies that was not from butter. If true, that would make the “butter cookies” label misleading.


What about the “Danish” part, though? The competitor claimed that Danisa cookies were really Denmarked up, from the crown and “Copenhagen” on the container lid to claims that the treats were “Baked following the original recipe from Denmark” and “Produced and packed in Denmark.” Are these misleading when the cookies are actually made in Indonesia? The NAD agreed with Campbell’s that it is, and that Danisa cookies need to cut back on the “Scandinavian imagery.”


Takari, the company that imports the cookies and sells them here in the United States, had a twofold argument. Here is our paraphrase:



  • They just import the cookies, and don’t know whether the cookies contain 100% butter or other shortenings.

  • Ads for the cookies that imply Danishness are “commercial speech protected under the First Amendment.”


Takari agreed not to import the cookies as they’re currently marketed, and won’t advertise them to consumers or to retailers using any of the contested language or Danish imagery.


NAD Reviews Advertising for ‘Danish’ Butter Cookie Made in Indonesia; Recommends Distributor Discontinue Claims [ASRC]




by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

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21 cosas que te puedes comprar por el precio de una Apple watch

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U.S. Patent Office: No, Patent Troll Company Does Not Entirely Own Podcasting


“Podcasting” might as well have been the word of the year in 2014, when “Serial” shot the form straight to the top of the pop-culture buzz charts for a few months. But while everyone in America was plugging in earbuds and trying to decide whodunit, the U.S. Patent Office had the more important end of the challenge: deciding who actually owns the patent for the idea of podcasting.

In short? Score one for the good guys. The decision addresses a few very specific elements of the patent claim, but no, the U.S. Patent Office found, this company does not actually have the exclusive ownership of releasing episodic audio content over the internet in a regular, updated way.


The matter came to a hearing at the Patent Office last December. Personal Audio, your basic “non-practicing” patent troll entity, claimed that they owned a patent on the tech that allows podcasting to work, and therefore lots of big, powerful companies with deep pockets — like CBS and CNN — owe them money.


The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which often represents people and companies trying to assert their rights in the digital world, stepped in and challenged Personal Audio’s claims last October, and the issue went to a hearing in December. The Patent Office released the result of that hearing today.


In their decision (PDF), the Patent Office works its way through the very, very specific arguments about wording and meaning. It is not unlike reading a geometric proof, in the way it builds a clear argument of facts and existing rulings. Ultimately, however, the dry legalese ends up with one result: the patent troll does not own podcasting.


“Petitioner [the EFF] has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that claims 31-35 of [the patents] are unpatentable,” the order concludes. “Because this is a final written decision, parties to the proceeding seeking judicial review of the decision must comply with the notice and service requirements.”


“We have a lot to celebrate here,” EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri said in a statement. “But unfortunately, our work to protect podcasting is not done. Personal Audio continues to seek patents related to podcasting. We will continue to fight for podcasters, and we hope the Patent Office does not give them any more weapons to shake down small podcasters.”




by Kate Cox via Consumerist