Last night, news broke that cable and television and internet giant Comcast will devour smaller competitor Time Warner in a $45 billion deal. Unsurprisingly, consumer groups expressed alarm that Comcast — a company they have long accused of thwarting access to affordable high-speed internet and opposing net neutrality — will grow larger still.
"No one woke up this morning wishing their cable company was bigger or had more control over what they could watch or download," Free Press president Craig Aaron said in a statement released earlier today. "But that — along with higher bills — is the reality they'll face tomorrow unless the Department of Justice and the FCC do their jobs and block this merger. Stopping this kind of deal is exactly why we have antitrust laws."
Meanwhile, today's Inquirer story was headlined "Comcast's Roberts calls Time Warner deal 'pro-consumer.'"
Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, a longtime top aide to Ed Rendell, told the Inquirer that while the deal "may sound scary," it was "approvable."
Consumer groups, which ultimately failed to block Comcast's 2011 acquisition of NBC-Universal, will no doubt wage a spirited fight to convince federal regulators to block the takeover of Time Warner.
In a statement, Public Knowledge warned that "an enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content. By raising the costs of its rivals and business partners, an enlarged Comcast would raise costs for consumers, who ultimately pay the bills. It would be able to keep others from innovating, while facing little pressure to improve its own service."
Philadelphia's elected officials will no doubt line up to back Comcast, which recently announced its plans to build a second (taxpayer-subsidized) skyscraper here in its hometown. This is a company that works hard to make political friends, and which is energetically supporting Gov. Tom Corbett's imperiled reelection campaign.
As I wrote last March (Political Power and Consumer Pain in Comcast's Philadelphia): "Comcast spent $19.6 million on federal lobbying in 2011 and its employees and PACs made $5.1 million in contributions to PACs, parties, candidates and third-party groups during the 2011-2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."
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