from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
While the Biden administration still hasn’t fully staffed the gridlocked FCC, it does appear to be ready to reward a top Comcast lobbyist and key Biden fundraising ally with a cushy new post.
According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration appears poised to “probably” give top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen the position of Canadian Ambassador, with a planned announcement likely coming in May:
“David Cohen, a Comcast executive who hosted Biden?s first official 2020 presidential fundraising event, probably will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Canada.”
Cohen is, if you’re unfamiliar, one of the architects of Comcast’s relentless monopolistic domination of US telecom, steering the company through numerous power consolidating mergers while assuring regulators that Comcast’s growing power was nothing to be concerned about. Granted time showcased it was very much something to be concerned about, as Comcast’s steadily growing monopoly over broadband (especially at faster speeds) is directly responsible for soaring US broadband prices, spotty coverage, and historically terrible customer service courtesy of steadily-eroding competition.
Cohen was dubbed a “wonk rock star” by the Washington Post back in 2012 for selling regulators on the 2011 Comcast NBC Universal merger. This was largely done using Internet Essentials, a program that promises discounted broadband access to low-income families. The plan was criticized heavily at first for being regulator window dressing that was intentionally difficult to qualify for while offering substandard speeds, something only fixed by Comcast after annoyed parents in Philadelphia protested in the streets (protestors who believe the program doesn’t do enough to offset Comcast’s overall harm were still protesting last year).
Internet Essentials was extremely helpful as a way to advertise Comcast’s boundless altruism, despite the fact Comcast’s monopolization and mergermania was heavily responsible for unaffordable US internet access in the first place. As the program has been launched and relaunched a thousand times over, it has provided Comcast with a bottomless well of promotional material featuring Cohen posing over the desks of beaming children. Of course the program provided something else as well: lobbying cover for access to federal, state, and local lawmakers.
Under feeble US lobbying laws, if an employee spends more than 20% of their time lobbying in DC, they have to register with the government as a lobbyist, detail their travel with lawmakers, and more fully outline their contributions to politicians and foundations. So to get around these restrictions, many companies simply call their lobbyists and policy wonks…something else. In Comcast’s case, Cohen spent much of his time as the company’s “Chief Diversity Officer.” Around 2019 Comcast thankfully hired somebody genuinely diverse to be Chief Diversity Officer, and Cohen’s role shifted to one of “counselor and adviser.” Comcast has historically gotten mad at me for calling Cohen a lobbyist, despite the fact that lobbying has always clearly made up a huge percentage of his work.
Again, the news of Cohen’s reward comes despite the fact the Biden team still hasn’t appointed a third Democratic Commissioner (and possible permanent boss) at the FCC, leaving it mired in partisan gridlock after the rushed appointment of Trump ally Nathan Simington. Hopefully the FCC appointment comes soon, given that rewarding telecom lobbyists before you’ve gotten around to staffing your top telecom regulator probably won’t be a great look for an administration hoping to get a vague but promising broadband agenda off the ground.