Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced their intention to merge into wedded corporate bliss back in the middle of February. Now, six months later, the process is still rolling along. Monday — August 25 — is the deadline for members of the public to leave comments with the FCC about the merger. Got thoughts? You have three days left to make them heard.
Many of the comments filed so far are from those who, like Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, feel there might be some foreign conspiracy at work to take wholesome all-American programming off the air.
But the reality is bad enough without paranoia involved, and it’s so much more simple: all of it is about money. A combined Comcast/TWC would have massive reach, massive clout, and massive market power that it could use to eke more and more money from every link in the chain.
Since the companies announced their betrothal in February, we’ve looked at many of the issues the potential merger raises. Among them are…
The industry already has legendarily poor customer service, as we have seen in incident after incident after incident after incident just within the past month. Without competition, there’s nowhere else for those customers to go.
Rates are going up and data caps are proliferating and there’s not a thing consumers can do about it. Competition is nil in many regions (and mobile data is no competition, no matter what Comcast claims).
Or cable company f*ckery, as it were. Comcast is bound by the conditions of their 2011 merger with NBCUniversal to stick with the now-vacated 2010 net neutrality rule until 2018. But that doesn’t stop them from advocating against a replacement that would continue to protect consumers past that point. Instead, they’re in favor of the FCC’s proposed fast lane solution.
Comcast isn’t just a TV distributor or an ISP. They’re both, and also a content provider and a half-dozen other things. But the control that they can exert by controlling access to the cloud and to streaming content helps them lock out potential competitors — both content producers and programming distributors (and companies, like Netflix, that are both). They can also charge those companies more money for access to Comcast’s internet subscribers. (Which, in turn, ripples to other providers.)
That leverage also gives them the power to keep content on networks they own, like regional sports programming, to themselves, or to charge a prohibitively high rate for it to other providers.
This isn’t Comcast’s first mega-merger. As Senator Al Franken pointed out earlier this year, their behavior after buying NBCUniversal in 2011 has not lived up to all of their promises.
Comcast, meanwhile, is ginning up support for their merger plan from every angle. They’re using campaign donations, lobbyists, dinners and parties, and even philanthropy and outreach to lower-income families as ways of trying to convince the FCC and the DoJ that expanding their business is in the public interest.
And yet, over half the country still thinks that this merger is a pretty terrible idea for consumers.