In broadband, the merger could accelerate Comcast’s efforts to create a nationwide Wi-Fi-based data network to compete with the mobile phone companies’ offerings. But it also would let Comcast impose data caps and other market-distorting restrictions on millions of additional customers.
Not coincidentally, such restrictions could make life more difficult for Netflix and other online services that are growing in popularity at cable operators’ expense. The merger would give Comcast more incentive and opportunity to engage in such mischief.
The shortage of broadband service providers — most homes have no more than two to choose from — leaves consumers with little ability to dump an Internet service provider whose terms they don’t like. Regulators have a head start, however, in stopping Comcast from abusing the market power it would gain by acquiring Time Warner Cable.
The Federal Communications Commission imposed a number of restrictions on Comcast in 2011 when it bought NBC Universal, aiming to protect against self-dealing and other forms of anti-competitive behavior online and on its cable system.
Among other things, Comcast is compelled to live by the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules, even the ones a federal appeals court has thrown out. Those protections would go a long way toward mitigating the risks posed by the expanding bulk of Comcast, while still allowing two noncompetitors to join forces.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.