by TURN Telecommunications Director Regina Costa
The demise of the Comcast-Time Warner merger is a spectacular win for the public – broadband, phone and video customers and the writers and artists who rely on cable networks to deliver content to people.
Prior to proposing the merger, Comcast was already dominant in controlling delivery of programming to customers, over cable systems and broadband Internet service. Comcast (and Time Warner in its markets) also share a duopoly with large telephone companies in the provision of essential telecommunications services.
Comcast has a history of snubbing its nose when it comes to the public interest. The company failed to fulfill promises made in a prior merger to extend broadband service to low income communities. And Comcast told the CPUC to go jump in the lake when it came to investigating the company’s failure to protect customer privacy after the unlisted numbers for thousands of California Comcast customers was provided to data publishers, or when it argued the CPUC had no authority to require Comcast to provide in-language information to non-English speaking customers.
Pre-merger Comcast already had market power over both customers and the pipes used to distribute content. A merged Comcast-Time Warner would have be in an even stronger position to throttle the delivery of content by controlling the means of distribution, the prices paid by customers to obtain content, and the payments to content creators. And Comcast refused to confirm that it would continue to provide Lifeline phone service to Time Warner customers, or live up to obligations such as providing reliable service as Time Warner had committed to do.
The merger would have given Comcast an unprecedented ability to throttle public communications and content through its control of the pipes that carry essential services to households. We applaud the Federal Communications Commission and US Department of Justice for their careful consideration of the evidence showing that this merger was a bad idea. And we’re grateful to all the consumers, advocates and activists who raised their voices against the merger- the pressure we built on various fronts all contributed to this victory!