Comcast’s proposed deal to purchase Time Warner Cable is being met with plenty of skepticism from consumer rights advocates. Given the current state of the U.S. broadband and pay TV market, those concerns are not easily dismissed. Comcast, already the largest cable provider, would gain even more control over the national broadband infrastructure and the market influence that comes with that control. This deal wouldn’t do anything to hold down ever-increasing consumer broadband rates and it may encourage Comcast to hike prices further simply because it can. Absent any further FCC efforts to regulate net neutrality, Comcast could also decide to leverage its increased market share into charging the likes of Amazon and Netflix for “preferred” access to its network.
As a Comcast customer, I don’t have many issues with the services I receive. Unlike a lot of other providers, Comcast has steadily increased its broadband capacity and speeds. But it charges exorbitant prices for that speed that are well above the rates charged in other developed nations for similar or even faster broadband access. Allowing Comcast to further consolidate its power doesn’t seem likely to result in a more consumer-friendly marketplace for such an essential service.
Perhaps the FCC will use this merger as an opportunity to push for meaningful regulations that will preserve the open Internet and granting increased access to competitors. Of course, this assumes that the FCC will find its backbone and not cower in a corner while Comcast steals its lunch money.