It’s Not About Television Anymore

The news this week that Comcast is set to take over Time Warner Cable dropped like a bomb. The immediate, visceral reaction from most folks on the internet, and from writers actually paid to understand deals like this, is that there is little hope a merger between these two giants would be good for customers. But there are more than just cable customers at stake. The big get for Comcast isn’t the people who are watching television. Rather, it’s the internet.
If this deal is approved by government regulators, the merged Comcast/Time Warner behemoth will have more customers purchasing internet access than any other company in the United States. This becomes even more significant in light of the court ruling last month striking down the FCC’s net neutrality rules. If that ruling stands, and Congress fails to pass legislation restoring net neutrality, then a giant ISP such as Comcast stands to reap a whirlwind of profits, all for essentially doing nothing.
With millions upon millions of customers behind Comcast’s wall, businesses paying to allow faster access to their services online will essentially be paying extortion to Comcast. It will be a tax on American business. That is the game Comcast is playing. They are seeking to position themselves as a gatekeeper between American businesses and American consumers. With every transaction that takes place, they will get their cut. The larger the company becomes, the more impact they will have on the American economy’s ability to function.
If that seems unsavory, that’s because it is. It has the same feel of mob tactics (protection, extortion, hijacking, etc.) only with the imprimatur of government approval.