Updated 

Testifiers sparse at Kona hearing for Time Warner Cable-Comcast Corp. merger


A public hearing to gather input on the planned merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. yielded one comment Monday.

Approximately 20 people attended the 30-minute hearing at the West Hawaii Civic Center, but the only testifier was Frederick Herrmann, who teaches filmmaking at Makua Lani Christian Academy. Herrman spoke about how his students greatly benefit from using Na Leo O Hawaii’s Kona facility, equipment, training and channels to make public service announcements and programs. Na Leo O Hawaii is a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating “diverse community, education and government dialog and expression by providing television access for the people of the County of Hawaii.” Its programs appear on Oceanic TWC.

Herrmann called the hands-on work enriching for the students who are interested in film and the visual arts. He hopes his school will have continued use of the facility and its services.

In particular, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs was interested in getting feedback on the proposed transfer of control of Oceanic TWC’s Hawaii cable franchises from TWC to Comcast. In February, Comcast agreed to buy TWC for $45 billion, but needs federal regulators to approve the deal.

According to the applications and public interest statement submitted April 8 to the Federal Communications Commission, “The combination of Comcast and TWC will create a world-class communications, media, and technology company significantly better positioned than either company alone to bring consumers the advanced services they want now and will need in the future and to keep America at the forefront of technology and innovation.”

Together, Comcast and TWC say they’ll be able to better provide “millions of households and businesses of all sizes the next generation of broadband Internet, video, voice and related technologies and services, and will compete more effectively against communications, media, and technology providers with national and global scale.”

For consumers, Comcast claimed this means “faster Internet speeds, especially for TWC customers; high-speed broadband services available on bundled and standalone bases; a fully upgraded network that provides highly reliable and secure service; the extension of the FCC’s Open Internet rules on network neutrality to TWC customers; a nationally acclaimed and comprehensive low-income broadband adoption program; the most robust and advanced video-on-demand and TV Everywhere experience; the best-in-class video technology and user interface; the most successful alternative to traditional voice services; and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to making video and high-speed data services accessible to people with disabilities.”

Several of these benefits were reiterated by Steven Holmes, vice president of government affairs for Comcast’s West Division, who gave a brief presentation during Monday’s hearing. He also talked about Comcast’s history and community investments.

However, several consumer advocacy groups are asking for the merger to be blocked, saying it will have negative impacts. Some opponents think the merger will change the industry’s structure, giving one company too much control over the information, shows, movies and so forth consumers can access. There are also concerns about a potential rise in fees.

Hawaii Island residents will have another opportunity to comment at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Aupuni Center conference room in Hilo.

Comments may also be emailed to cabletv@dcca.hawaii.gov, faxed to 586-2625, or mailed to Cable Television Division, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 541, Honolulu, HI 96809. All testimony must be filed with the department’s Cable Television Division by 4:30 p.m. July 25. To learn more about the transfer, go to cca.hawaii.gov/catv/cable_operators/comcast-time-warner-merger.