Combining AT&T and Time Warner would create a mega-media conglomerate with the incentive and ability to favor its own content over that of other entertainment companies and restrict competing distributors from accessing that content, ultimately limiting our choices as consumers.
On March 5, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law the first net-neutrality bill in the nation, making Washington state a leader in open and equal access to the internet. This law is in response to the Federal Communications Commission vote in December to gut federal rules that are meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.
Net neutrality refers to the basic principle that internet service providers have to treat all web traffic equally, without discriminating on the basis of the content’s source or ownership, or other factors. Net neutrality has been a longtime goal of progressives and tech advocates, who see it as fundamental to preserving a free and open internet in which consumers have equal access to all content, and small startup websites are treated equally to those of major corporations. The FCC’s vote to end net neutrality is likely only the first battle in a long war.
A related, and equally important, matter of great concern is the proposed acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T. It is impossible to assess the AT&T-Time Warner merger without taking into consideration the impact that the Trump administration FCC’s net neutrality rollback would have. The problem, simply put, is that the merger would result immediately in a conglomerate with the incentive to discriminate against content from other sources, along with the market-share and economic power to make others follow suit. The merger would implement the FCC’s erroneous ruling, and we’ll all be the losers.
As the nation’s largest pay-TV provider, after acquiring DIRECTV in 2015, and the second largest mobile broadband provider, AT&T is one of the nation’s leading distributors of content, with 135 million wireless subscribers and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. Time Warner is one of the nation’s largest media companies and owns high-rated programming, including HBO, TNT, TBS, CNN and Warner Bros.
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Combining these behemoths would create a mega-media conglomerate with both the incentive and the ability to favor its own content over that of other entertainment companies and to restrict competing video distributors from accessing that content, harming its competitors and ultimately limiting our choices as consumers.
Allowing one giant company like a combined AT&T-Time Warner to control the content available to Americans would threaten the basic principles of our democracy, especially given Time Warner’s ownership of key news information sources like CNN. With both the incentive and the ability to direct consumers to Time Warner-owned content, AT&T-Time Warner could restrict its subscribers’ access to alternative viewpoints, such as those offered by competing news outlets like MSNBC.
The struggle for open and equal access to the internet is far from over. I urge my fellow citizens, and our elected leaders, to oppose the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger and ensure that the free flow of information that our democracy relies on will not be stymied. Please join me in encouraging state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to take action in opposition to the AT&T takeover of Time Warner.