Recording sparks comment about cable merger

A maddening recording of a Comcast customer service phone call that went viral on the Internet this week was one of two concerns presented Wednesday at a public hearing in Hilo regarding the merger of Comcast and Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

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A maddening recording of a Comcast customer service phone call that went viral on the Internet this week was one of two concerns presented Wednesday at a public hearing in Hilo regarding the merger of Comcast and Oceanic Time Warner Cable.

“The reason I’m at this meeting is because of something I heard on the Internet this morning,” said Pahoa resident Russell Jones. “It was very disturbing. It’s of a customer trying to disconnect from this company, and how they were treated. … This, to me, is a predatory company, and they’re here to do one thing and that is to become a monopoly. … These people can go back to where they came from.”

The recording, made by former technology journalist Ryan Block, featured his repeated attempts to have his cable service disconnected. During the eight-minute conversation, the Comcast representative repeatedly asks Block to explain why he wants to cancel, and does not respond to multiple requests to cancel the service.

“So, you’re not interested in the fastest Internet in the country?” the man is heard asking.

Before opening up the floor to public comment during the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs hearing Wednesday afternoon in the Aupuni Center Conference Room, Comcast Vice President of Government Affairs West Division Steven Holmes told attendees that Comcast’s proposed takeover of Oceanic’s Hawaii franchises would result in faster and more reliable Internet service, a wider selection of channels and video on demand, and other improvements to current services offered.

“We will deliver services that will improve the quality of life of Hawaii residents,” he said.

The only other member of the public to comment at the meeting was a Keaukaha resident who complained that he currently is not offered cable service on his side of the street.

Comcast Corp. is seeking to take control of Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s Hawaii cable franchises, after a planned $45 billion nationwide merger of the two companies was announced in February. The two companies are the country’s largest cable providers.

Comcast recently filed with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs an application to take over TWC’s operations in Hawaii. The DCCA is expected to decide on the application some time near Sept. 19. The decision would only apply to TWC’s in-state franchises.

Those who would like to comment about the merger but were unable to attend either of the meetings in Hilo or Kona may submit testimony via email at cabletv@dcca.hawaii.gov, via fax at (808) 586-2625, or via mail at:

Cable Television Division

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

P.O. Box 541

Honolulu, HI 96809

Following input from the public, the DCCA’s Cable Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the transfer application and the public hearings, and then forward its recommendation to DCCA Direction Kealii S. Lopez, who will issue a final decision.

At the island’s first hearing Monday in Kona, only one of about 20 attendees provided comment about the merger during the 30-minute meeting.

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The viral Comcast customer service recording can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/ryan-block-10/comcastic-service.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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