Editor’s note: The following piece was submitted by Congressman Anthony Brindisi in response to an op-ed by Claudia Tenney entitled “Tenney: Cheap politics let Spectrum off the hook for shoddy service” published in the Friday, Aug. 7 edition of The Palladium-Times.
Former politicians looking to get “their” seats “back” can be predictable.
Whenever one of the issues they’ve ignored as an actual elected official becomes the issue they try to use to elbow back into office, be careful.
If you haven’t noticed, our former Congresswoman, Claudia Tenney, has begun channeling me on the issue of Spectrum cable and their outrageous business practices. Finally! This area needs all the voices it can muster — every citizen — to speak up about what’s been going on, then federal regulators might listen to us ‘average consumers.’
For a long time now, I have been one of the only federal officials beating the drum on Spectrum and taking on the risk, while others, Ms. Tenney included, took direct checks and banked mega campaign cash. The truth here: this drummer needs a bigger ensemble because, as I’ve said, I simply cannot do this alone.
Just days ago, I revealed what amounts to an all but secret plan by Spectrum cable to rig the system even more in the favor of their bottom line – and now I am publicizing this news before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) simply caves to the corporation (again).
So, what’s going on?
At the end of June, while we were doing all we could to beat back COVID-19, Spectrum quietly filed a petition with the FCC to do all it could to make more money and break the promises it made to the federal government when it merged with Time Warner in 2016. Simply put, what the company is asking the feds permission to do translates into raising prices legally by ‘capping data’. I want to stop this from happening, and part of that means ramping up the public pressure.
Look: I watch Spectrum like a hawk and have built a strong case against them that I believe can compel the present, but most likely future, FCC to act.
My very first bill in Congress (2019), the bipartisan Transparency for Cable Consumers Act, finally put Spectrum on the defense and likely forced them to dial-up a team of lobbyists that has kept my bill in committee. That bill would guarantee better oversight of cable and internet providers and hold companies fined by a state Public Service Commission, like Spectrum, accountable. That fight continues as you read these words, but the story unfolds, because we have had some wins.
On Jan. 8, I publicized shady debt collection practices by Spectrum’s collection company, Credit Management LP, forcing that firm to back off locals and I have a pending request with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to deal with this issue.
And on Feb. 10, I demanded the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) investigate Spectrum for widespread outages. The PSC announced their investigation just three days later and Spectrum was later forced to give customers a bill credit.
Sometimes, it feels, with each stone I throw, Spectrum counters with a bazooka. But in this real life David vs Goliath we also have to think about how that story ends. I find renewed energy every time you cheer me on to keep the fight going and read each and every one of your letters on this issue, and most importantly, I share your points in Congressional hearings.
Some say this is a fight over a few dollars “here and there,” but my time in Congress has only reinforced my belief that it’s those dollars that make all the difference for families in our area.
As with everything I do in Congress, I work to bring Republicans and Democrats together, but that’s hard work and it takes time. This is the strategy I used to get the SPOONSS Act you’ve read about passed. If I can pass that bill, get President Trump to sign it AND help our area workforce, well then, I can put a fork in Spectrum’s price gouging too.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, has represented New York’s 22nd Congressional District since 2019. He is running for re-election this fall.