Everyone's coming out against the Comcast-TWC merger
Comcast and Time Warner Cable might not be able to ruin the United States' chances of improving its slow, embarrassing Internet infrastructure after all.
The Wall Street Journal reports that FCC regulators have recommended that the $45.2 billion merger be put into the hands of an administrative law judge. This would signal that the FCC believes allowing the two companies to merge wouldn't be in the public's interest, and make it harder for the deal to proceed.
And the FCC wouldn't be the only group wary of allowing the merger to happen. Antitrust lawyers at the Justice Department are also expected to recommend against the deal, and a group of Senators have also come out against the deal. As the Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Ron Wyden, and others qwrote:
Unfortunately, with only a handful of cable and Internet providers dominating the market, consumers are often left with little choice but to pay the price a given provider demands and have little say over what content is made available to them.
Comcast-TWC’s combined ability to drive out competitors will only make things worse for consumers. Technological advances in the industry will be slowed, independent programmers and content will be foreclosed, and consumers will be left with even larger bills to pay. This is an industry that requires more competition, not less. Their point -- that the broadband market already suffers from a lack of true competition against incumbents like Comcast and TWC -- has been made in the past. This lack of competition is also used to explain why Americans pay more than other industrialized nations for slower Internet connections, on average.
Even the companies themselves have provided critics with all the fodder they need to argue competition is better for consumers than the monopoly the combined company would enjoy. As I wrote after both companies undermined their own arguments:
So of the two companies hoping to make this merger a reality, one upgraded consumers to a better service without additional cost and the other announced a faster-than-gigabit service, all in an effort to combat increased competition.
It’s a good thing for Comcast and Time Warner Cable that their lobbying money has been spread far and wide on Capitol Hill. Paying off politicians is the only way the argument that a combined company that can run roughshod over its competition is better for consumers won’t be laughed right out of the room. Yet it seems that even Comcast and TWC haven't spent enough to convince virtually everyone that allowing them to merge would be good for anything but their own bank accounts. Lawyers, regulators, and politicians alike have rallied around the idea that the US needs more competition if it wants to have a decent Internet.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]