PROPONENTS of the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable imagine all sorts of consumer advantages that could emerge from such a massive media conglomeration.
Trouble is, the federal regulators who must approve the consolidation of these cable and broadband giants have shown little or no inclination to act on behalf of consumer protection.
If the Federal Communications Commission wants to represent the long-term interests of Americans, then it should reclassify these industry giants as telecommunication companies, not information services.
Change a couple of words and the regulatory leverage and authority of the commission soars. Otherwise, Comcast takes on an elephantine stature with no restraints.
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Concerns about what comes next if this merger is approved covers the regulatory landscape.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a laudable statement about the need to ensure stronger competition in the city. The municipal franchise granted to Comcast expires in January 2016. The mayor wants broad participation in a community review of Comcast’s customer service and corporate performance on its civic obligations.
Murray was adamant: “I hope regulators prevent the merger, while I do my part to foster competition in Seattle.”
Taking the debate to a national level, former FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps had a scathing article in the Columbia Journalism Review. Copps said he feared one of the largest media mergers in history, “will run roughshod over consumers in the end.”
Copps said all manner of media consolidations have diluted the breadth and quality of journalism in America, and that regulatory failures have eliminated almost all oversight of broadband and Internet services.
No one is watching to keep Internet access free and open, and prospects of a Comcast and Time Warner merger only increase concerns about a truly open Internet for competing services, voices, diversity and consumer affordability.
Putting all the access under ever fewer corporate brands, and decreasing already limited competition raises basic concerns about prices.
This merger would make the combined company a major presence in 19 of the top 20 markets in the United States, according to an Associated Press business report.
Nothing about this merger moves the country toward the high-speed, low-cost broadband accessible to all that Copps says the rest of the world is getting, and the U.S. does not have.
Sweet talk to sell a suffocating merger means nothing.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).