Comcast, the largest mass media company in the world by revenue, has announced that it intends to buy Time Warner Cable, the United States second biggest cable company, for more than $45 billion in stock giving the media giant cable access to a third of American households.
Living in Venice, our cable TV needs were served by Comcast until the end of 2006. Time Warner took over the following month. Neither company was first rate. According to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, Time Warner Cable is the second worst subscription TV service, while Comcast is the third worst, yet this merger is supposed to benefit consumers?
For an alternative to high speed internet, like the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) supplied by Verizon, many of us were too far away from the hub at the end of the line by the sea to get anything quick enough to stream a video. According to TheNextWeb.com more than 70 percent of the American public now has broadband with cable TV supplying half the market while DSL is at 34 percent and declining.
According to the NPD group, despite the fact that inflation was just 1.5 percent last year, cable TV bills nationwide continue to rise 6 percent a year. The average pay TV bill nationwide is expected to reach $123 in 2015.
A movie lover can stream videos from Netflix at only $7.99 a month, but Comcast has pushed back at the concept of net neutrality, the precept that internet service providers (ISP) should not favor delivering one source over another to the consumer. A decision by the Washington D.C. District Court last month overturned the 2010 net neutrality FCC rules so that ISPs like Comcast can charge Netflix for delivering content, while it favors its own. What content does Comcast supply? It owns all of NBC Universal including Bravo and MSNBC; much of E! Entertainment Television; the Golf Channel and more.
Let’s look at broadband prices. The differences are most dramatic at the high end. Comcast is now offering 505 Mbps internet service for $400 per month. In contrast, Google Fiber and the Chattanooga, Tennessee municipal fiber network are providing nearly double the speed, 1 Gbps service for only $70 a month.
This proposed merger should be blocked as being anti competitive. A strict net neutrality law should be enacted. Finally, instead of the current tier system, cable TV should be mandated to offer al a carte pricing. Some people find watching golf as exciting as staring at grass grow. Why can’t we choose to pay for only the networks we watch?