There’s a deal on the table for Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable, which would make Comcast by far the biggest cable provider in the nation. And there is a lot of back and forth as to whether or not that would be a good thing.
A few anti-trust pundits think the merger is bad for competition and consumer choice. But others think it might help to invigorate a flagging cable industry, giving it the capital it needs to adapt to a changing market. I really don’t know what I think about all of that.
As a general principle, I hate anti-trust laws. I think that if the market is left largely to sort itself, even companies that gain a huge foothold are forced to keep providing a good service—or eventually they will become obsolete.
I too mourn the loss of quaint mom and pop shops put out of business by super Wal-Marts. But at the same time, Wal-Mart offers lower prices and a better selection than any mom and pop shop could afford. Do I like seeing my home town turned into a franchise-glutted cookie-cutter parking-lot zombie fun-land? Not really. But are we willing to pay higher prices to preserve our idyllic town centers? Probably not.
So I have mixed feelings when I hear about mergers and possible monopolies. My biggest problem with this current Comcast merger is simple: the revolving door. Crony capitalism is not real capitalism, and it really worries me that so many people currently lobbying for big business (or heading up big businesses) had ties and positions in government (and vice versa).
An article in DSL Reports outlines some of the connections between the FCC and Comcast. I don’t like it:
You’ll recall that former FCC boss Michael Powell now heads the cable industry’s top lobbying organization, the NCTA. You’ll also recall that former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is also now a Comcast lobbyist.
DOJ Antitrust Division director William J. Baer also represented NBCUniversal during Comcast’s acquisition. That’s all before you note that top Comcast lobbyist and policy man David “what broadband competition problem?” Cohen is apparently “close friends” (whatever that actually means in DC) with President Obama . . .
I’m honestly not troubled by the cable industry side of this merger. The cable industry is dying. But Comcast and Time Warner also provide cable internet all over the country. Many people don’t have a choice but to use them. And if you own the pipes, you can control the content. If Comcast is in bed with the civil government, don’t you think they will comply with Uncle Sam’s demands? We already know cable television and the mainstream media is biased left. But what happens when the “free” internet starts to be controlled and manipulated in the same way: “We’re sorry. We don’t agree with your site, Mr. Jones. So we won’t allow our users to access it through our pipes. Better luck next time.”
I’ll be watching this development closely.