Critics of the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable argue it will hurt competition in the TV industry. But Comcast says the deal will be good for consumers when you look at the wider communications market.
The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the merger because it would give the firms a combined share of around 30 percent of cable TV customers and 40 percent of broadband customers
Comcast has already argued that’s not an issue because the two firms serve different locations and customers have never had a choice between Comcast or Time Warner as a service provider. Of course, that can’t be said about the position of the firms as a buyer of programming.
Now Comcast has filed a lengthy public interest statement with the FCC. It argues that as far as competition goes, it should be considered part of a wider tech market that includes Internet firms such as Google and content providers such as Netflix. In particular it points to Google’s work on fiber optic broadband networks as potential competition.
The main thrust of the Comcast case is that partnering with Time Warner will allow the two companies to share technology and knowledge about broadband provision. The theory is that this could allow both companies to increase speed and reliability.
The filing also says the deal is good news because it will mean Comcast products such as a range of 300,000 programs for online streaming and an option to “buy” movies to watch permanently will be extended to Time Warner Customers.
Comcast also says that under the proposed merger, Time Warner would agree to follow the same net neutrality rules already used by Comcast. These aren’t the universal FCC rules which were recently struck down in a court battle over jurisdiction, but rather rules that Comcast agreed to follow as a condition of a previous takeover of NBC Universal that required FCC approval. Comcast has also agreed to extend its program offering cheap broadband for low-income households to Time Warner customers.
Advocacy groups remain unconvinced. They point to statistics showing Comcast has raised cable prices while Time Warner has been cutting and suggest Time Warner customers will lose out from the deal. They also argue that one company providing Internet service to so many people would have too much power over online services, regardless of the net neutrality rules.