Could Comcast Merger Result in Better Netflix Service?

Or will regulators wilt in the the face of the company's immense power?

Comcast-center-daylight-jeff-fusco-940-full

One possible benefit of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger? Your Netflix service might get better. But that might happen only if the FCC commands it — and is the FCC in a position to do so?

Let’s check the headlines to find out:

Netflix Could Get Smooth ’Cards’ Out of Comcast’s Merger: Regulators weighing the merger asked Comcast about its February agreement with Netflix that requires it to pay for fast delivery over the cable provider’s service. The questions show officials are preparing to help Web video companies that have asked the regulators to prohibit such payments, said Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson in New York. “I don’t think there’s any question about it — the big winner in the Comcast merger is Netflix,” Moffett said. Regulators can demand conditions as a price for approving Comcast’s $45.2 billion acquisition. Fixing jams where Web traffic flows into Comcast’s system is among a range of possible conditions that may be imposed as the FCC and Justice Department review the deal. The biggest U.S. cable company stands to gain 7 million more video customers and a cable presence in top markets New York and Los Angeles. (Bloomberg)

But….

Any curbs on Comcast alliance are tough to enforce: No matter what conditions regulators place on Comcast in order to approve its merger with Time Warner Cable, they will be toothless, television industry insiders told The Post. That’s because the Federal Communications Commission is unable to enforce some of the conditions it sets down, the critics claim. Just look at the conditions Comcast was supposed to adhere to — but didn’t — to gain approval of its purchase of NBCUniversal, the critics maintain. “Is the [FCC] concerned about these things to impose these safeguards and conditions to stop these things from happening? That’s what it boils down to,” a source told The Post. “They avoided them through clever lawyering.” (New York Post)

Other headlines:

How Comcast and Time Warner Cable helped defeat the inventor of net neutrality: Tim Wu, who invented net neutrality—at least the term for it—just lost a political battle with the giants of the internet. The Columbia law professor, known for his pioneering work on the legal framework of the internet, was running for lieutenant governor of New York. His progressive ticket with gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout lost yesterday in a Democratic primary against sitting governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul. … The government of New York has the power to put the kibosh on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger thanks to its jurisdiction over the number one media market in the US. After Teachout and Wu promised to block the merger if elected, seeing it as a threat to the open internet, New York’s tech elite rallied around their campaign.  … Since Cuomo’s run for governor in 2010, Comcast and Time Warnerhave given his campaign more than $200,000, and also donated $500,000 to a party political account controlled by the governor. The disparity of resources between the two campaigns is a key reason for Teachout and Wu’s loss. (Quartz)

Comcast Supports the Open Internet: Today, a few organizations and businesses who have built their success on the Internet are participating in a day of online action to demand new – and very different and, we believe, destructive – regulations in the name of preserving an open Internet.  As part of this action, some are making accusations that “cable companies” want to “break the Internet.”  We want you to know that Comcast has no desire to break the Internet – or to do anything else to disturb its fundamental openness.  We support maintaining an open Internet, and a role for the FCC ensuring that. We don’t interfere with our customers’ ability to access lawful content online. As today’s actions show, the availability and access to lawful content and websites online is ultimately up to the provider of that specific content.  We continue to be committed to delivering the same high-quality, high-speed Internet service that our customers rely on each and every day. (Comcast Blog)

TheBlaze Figures 300000+ Are Opposed to Comcast/Time Warner Cable Deal: Glenn Beck‘s TheBlaze, which aspires to grow its cable distribution, continues its fierce opposition to the proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In a new filing to the FCC today, John B. Simpson, a consultant hired by TheBlaze estimates that “the total number of public comments in opposition to the Comcast Time Warner Cable transaction exceeds 300,000.” That includes 52,566 comments collected by TheBlaze. (Media Bistro)

The Absurd Opposition to Media Mergers Media-content companies are telling the FCC that the Comcast deal—but somehow not the AT&T deal—should be denied because the combined company will be too big, consumers will pay more and the amount of quality programming will shrink. None of these objections is valid, if, again, Justice and the FCC properly do their jobs. This mostly means protecting, but not overprotecting, independent programmers and assuring Internet neutrality. The media industry—both distribution and content production—is an indisputable beneficiary of economies of scale, to the onward benefit of consumers and shareholders alike. Big cost-savings in equipment and technology would accrue to Comcast and to AT&T from their proposed mergers. (Wall Street Journal op-ed)

Comcast, TWC On List Of Top Capital Spenders: Atop the top list of American companies in the communications, tech and energy sector, ranked according to capital spending in the U.S., Comcast at number seven with $6.6 billion and Time Warner Cable at 21 with $3.2 billion. Combined, as the two companies hope to be, they would come in at number five, just ahead of Walmart ($8.7B).   That is according to the Progressive Policy Institute’s latest Investment Heroes report. AT&T tops the list at $20.9 billion, followed by Verizon at $15.4 billion. Spending is defined as investments in plants, property, and equipment in the United States.  (Multichannnel News)