Edinburgh Some things are certain today. It will rain in Scotland, and Comcast will continue to quickly exercise monopoly power over the internet, almost making a mockery of the recently proposed “new” rules by the FCC to curb exactly these kinds of abuses. Comcast and Netflix came to an agreement for Netflix to pay them more to insure faster and more reliable service to Comcast subscribers that are also Netflix members.
The costs of course are expected to be passed on to consumers. Absent a monopoly, we might wonder to whom, but since Comcast controls localized monopolies in service areas, customers have little choice but to have chosen them, so it will presumably mean Netflixers will pay more. In a competitive environment different than what exists, Comcast might absorb some or all of such costs in order to attract more cable users, but, why bother as a monopoly. All of which of course argues once again that the Department of Justice simply must act to prevent Comcast from controlling 40% of the internet broadband customers based on its territorial control.
The new proposed rules continue not to regulate the internet as the public utility that it has become, though they do open the door for increased local provision of cable service similar to Lafayette, Louisiana’s operation and the high speed programs installed by Google in Kansas City, soon Austin, and perhaps another 30 cities in active discussion. Google’s local cable play is smart and decidedly a public service, but it is also a firm recognition of the same problem of cable and internet monopoly control by Comcast and others. Helping cities expand local cable service is not really a public service for Google, but an act of self-protection to keep Comcast and its imitators from setting itself up as a toll collector on the internet highway for them and their search engines. They are hedging against the Comcast monopoly even while the government is still silent about acting to prevent this expansion.
Comcast’s legions of lobbyists and governmental relations folks swamping nonprofits and others with torrents of cash to try and quiet any cries for justice now parrot their public relations line that they will follow the old rules, overturned by court decisions, until 2018 as a condition of their earlier acquisition of NBC/Universal with the FCC and extend that for Times-Warner. Given their arrogant disregard of their commitment to lower the digital divide as part of the same deal for lower income families, there’s no reason to believe their intentions or implementation will be any better for these promises than those requirements.
If the FCC is ready to finally assert jurisdiction and tell state legislators, bought and leased by Comcast and its buddies, that they cannot stop local service provision, why not go the rest of the way. The whole argument by the cable guys is that they spent billions to lay the lines, so they have the right to use them any way they want and charge whatever they can get away with. The government should simply buy them out at a fair price or seize them through eminent domain as a public service they safeguard and assure for all citizens equally.
Might be the best couple of billion we ever could spend to invest in all of our futures.