Back in the Spotlight, Teachout and Wu Rally for Net Neutrality

Back in the Spotlight, Teachout and Wu Rally for Net Neutrality

Back in the Spotlight, Teachout and Wu Rally for Net Neutrality
September 15, 2014

Shortly after losing her bid for the governor’s mansion, Zephyr Teachout was back in the spotlight again, speaking out against the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger outside City Hall at a rally on Monday promoting net neutrality.

The event, organized by Common Cause New York and Free Press, promoted “net neutrality”, and was Teachout’s first public event since her defeat by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in lat week's Democratic primary. The rally marked a reunion for Teachout and her lieutenant governor pick Tim Wu around an issue right in his wheelhouse. Wu, a Columbia University law professor, was active in the open Internet movement long before he was a candidate, and actually coined the term “net neutrality” in an academic paper—a concept often explained as treating all online content as equal and not letting certain sites be blocked or slowed down.

Teachout and Wu reminded the crowd that neither candidate shied away from talking about the merger and its potential consequences during the campaign. Both feared that a merger between the two cable and Internet Goliaths would lead to higher costs.

“I don’t know if any of you saw the map of the counties that Tim and I won last week,” Teachout asked the crowd, “but I’ll tell you, in a lot of those counties, we were talking about big cable. We were campaigning outside cable companies…. It’s a kitchen table issue.”

The fate of the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger lies in the hands of the state’s Public Service Committee (PSC), which will vote on the issue at its October 2nd meeting. Since Gov. Cuomo recently enacted a law allowing the PSC to reject mergers if they are not in the public interest, the board has a lot of leverage in pushing the cable companies to meet certain conditions, such as extending Comcast’s agreement to follow strict net neutrality guidelines beyond 2018.

Wu said both issues of the day—cable companies and internet speed—come down to power politics. 

“They’re linked in the sense that growing power in the cable industry gives even more leverage to mess with the internet,” Wu said “The growing power of cable creates net neutrality concerns.”

Judging by the public outcry against the merger, it seems that many agree with Wu’s premise. Monday’s rally was scheduled to fall on the last day of the public comment period for “protecting and promoting the open Internet”. Comments have been flooding into the FCC's website for months, and overall the agency has reportedly received over 3 million online comments, with numbers boosted by a rant in favor of neutrality by HBO’s John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight in June, and last week’s Internet slowdown day that brought “loading” graphics to popular websites like Reddit and Kickstarter to show users what a world without net neutrality could look like.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has previously raised concerns about the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and sees it as a chance to further protect net neutrality, but Teachout called on more politicians to follow suit.

“From now on out, you should not be able to be a politician in New York State, let alone in this country, who does not take a strong, clear stand against the Comcast-Time Warner [Cable] merger, and in favor of net neutrality,” Teachout said.

Jeff Coltin
Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.