New Orleans After almost a year and a half of trying to pull the wool over federal regulators and the consumer public, the effort by Comcast to create a predatory monopoly over broadband internet and cable with its proposed merger with Times-Warner seems to finally be coming to a head. Reportedly, the FCC is now entertaining both parties for the first time in fourteen months on whether it will schedule a public hearing on the merger. Experts talking to the Wall Street Journal say that if Comcast is not able to stop a hearing, the FCC only schedules one as the kiss of death, which gives us all something to hope for now.
There is encouraging news. The feds seem to have seen through the Comcast flimflam argument that, “hey, fellas, this is just a simple cable deal,” realizing that the real issue is not cable, which all us techno-peasants know could be an outdated technology on its way to the dustbins of history like home telephones and desktop radio sets. The FCC realized that the merger would give the monopoly almost 60% of the market for broadband internet. Furthermore, there is nothing in Comcast’s history or recent record that indicates that they would play nice with a monopoly. No way, no how.
More good news has emerged from the Justice Department indicating they may be coming late to the game, but finally seem to be looking at the antitrust ramifications of this proposed merger. In recent weeks, reports have emerged that indicate that there is no determination, but the folks at Justice are not liking what they are seeing so far.
Reading the tea leaves, I would say that they are floating trial balloons to help stiffen the back of the FCC, just as the President had to do on the net neutrality issue. The FCC is charged with determining whether a merger like this is in the public interest, while Justice looks at antitrust. Sending a message through the newspapers across the wide Washington, DC boulevards that Justice is skeptical on the merger might be the last push towards the right decision by the FCC.
Supposedly, the FCC is also looking at whether or not the Comcast record on their merger with NBC/Universal indicates they can be trusted on this deal. The Journal says a deal with Hulu is an issue. I don’t know Hulu from Hawaii, but I do know their commitment to the FCC order about delivering low cost, accessible service to lower income families with children has been a travesty dressed in hypocrisy. We have already forced the company to pay fines and extend the years required to deliver on their commitment, and they are nowhere close to doing right. Giving an outfit like this majority control of broadband internet would guarantee that the digital divide for lower income families would be permanent and unbridgeable. Too much of the future is tied into the internet to allow a company like Comcast to made inequity a permanent condition dividing everyone forever.
If you haven’t already let the FCC know that this Comcast monopoly has to be stopped, then now is the time to do so.
Phil Ochs Power and the glory