David Carr on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal:
Foremost, Comcast already has a huge regulatory win in the bank. Its proposed acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009 was met with abundant skepticism, with consumer advocates contending that control over both so much content and distribution gave it too much market power. The company maneuvered its way past those hurdles and won approval by making some concessions and commitments, and it is in an even stronger position today.
Consider that one of the Federal Communications Commission regulators who approved the NBCUniversal deal, Meredith Attwell Baker, now works for Comcast as a lobbyist. Since that deal, there has been a change in leadership at the commission, and it is now run by Tom Wheeler, who was previously a chief lobbyist for the cable industry. (Comcast is among the biggest spenders on lobbying, having written checks for $18 million in 2013 alone.)
The deck is absolutely stacked for this deal to happen. Which is, of course, total bullshit. Continues Carr:
Cable is a necessary evil that works best when we can exercise consumer choice. I live in northern New Jersey and used to be a Comcast customer — I dumped it after one of its technicians pointed to the cable running through the trees and said I might not have a great connection when the wind was blowing. I switched to Verizon FiOS’s fiber-optic service and have been very happy since. (Not cheap, but it works.) When, you might ask, will the fiber-optic future arrive at your house? How about never? Does never sound good?
No, it does not. But much of the cable market has already been divided up — as the executives behind the merger noted, Time Warner and Comcast do not overlap in any markets, and Verizon has previously agreed not to expand. Comcast, which will now have less competition, will have less motivation to invest in building out infrastructure like fiber-optic networks at the expense of its shareholders.
It’s not so much that Comcast is stifling some existing competition here — it’s that they’re ensuring there will never be any competition to speak of. And even if this monopolist is benevolent, they’ll have no true incentive to push innovation forward. And that hurts us all in so many more ways than just our checkbooks.