Headlines are blunt and booming: Comcast will announce any minute that it is buying Time Warner Cable for over $45 billion, making a Godzilla-sized company out of what is already the biggest cable provider in the United States. It would have a total customer base of some 30 million.
Known for its ruthless practices and crafty, cozy relationship with the FCC, Comcast stifles competition effortlessly while favoring NBCUniversal, which it of course owns. The agreement with the FCC that let them buy NBCU requires Comcast’s internet service to abide by strict net neutrality, but it expires in 2018 and then goodbye independents. Goodbye innovation. Goodbye to any views Comcast disagrees with.
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As Michael Hiltzik put in the L.A. Times: “Let’s get to the bottom line. There’s no way this combination can conceivably be in the public interest. The deal is a blunt challenge to the Federal Communications Commission and its new chairman, Tom Wheeler; the question is whether the FCC will fold against the economic and political power of these two behemoths.”
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Consumers can fight high cable bills and absurdly bundled packages by cutting the cord and going entirely online with services like FilmOn. Everything is available, in fact much more than the cable companies can be bothered to offer, and much of it is free.
But think of the consumers who wind up without a choice of internet provider. How long before Comcast starts trying to wield its new might to bulldoze Wheeler and start charging exorbitant rates for content providers it sees as competition? How long before it shuts off the tap to them entirely so they can’t do business?
Innovation will be hurt, and art itself will be hurt by this kind of capitalistic censorship. It’s not what the FCC was meant to let happen. But it’s clear that one of the biggest ever deals in cable is also one of the worst.
(TV Mix is owned and operated by FilmOn.)
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