You’d think AT&T had spread enough money around in Washington to keep this from happening. Apparently not. Senate Anti Trust leader Herb Kohl has made it pretty clear this buy should not happen in an official communique to the FCC.
Kohl said in his letter that the merger would concentrate the U.S. wireless market too much.
“I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies,” Kohl wrote.
With the ISP’s cost of delivering a gigabyte at an all time low and that price continuing to trend downward, AT&T isn’t happy with the status quo. People are still using more bandwidth than they did a decade ago and they aren’t paying more to use AT&T’s tired old network. AT&T’s few upgrades were done to enable pay TV. The number of consumers willing to pay large for that stuck in the 90′s service is shrinking fast. That very same company that has stubbornly refused to upgrade its capacity to accommodate the realities of the new century will begin charging its heaviest users more adding insult to injury:
Ladies and gentlemen, the days of unlimited broadband may be numbered in the United States, and we’re not talking wireless this time — AT&T says it will implement a 150GB monthly cap on landline DSL customers and a 250GB cap on subscribers to U-Verse high speed internet starting on May 2nd. AT&T will also charge overage fees of $10 for every additional 50GB of data, with two grace periods to start out — in other words, the third month you go over the cap is when you’ll get charged. DSLReports says it has confirmation from AT&T that these rates are legitimate, and that letters will go out to customers starting March 18th. (Engadget)
AT&T has been losing heavier users to cable for the last decade thanks to feeble bandwidth and high prices. Look for the remaining few that have that option to flee. That is if cable doesn’t respond in kind. Without competition and a government that has not shown any interest in enforcing anti trust, its very possible we could all be in for a rate increase regardless of our provider. (more…)
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants us all to think that he’s looking out for us. He must also think we’re stupid. Anti trust statutes clearly state that a monopoly may not be used to gain an advantage in additional markets. There’s no mention of this in any of the government whitewash that is concealing the fact that NBC Comcast merger isn’t even worthy of consideration in the current marketplaces Comcast and NBC play in. Never the less, Genachowski is putting on a dog and pony show to make his blessing on the deal look more legitimate to the unwashed masses in flyover country.
The conditions laid out Thursday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
are intended to guarantee that satellite providers and other rival
television services can still carry marquee NBC programming and that new
Internet video distributors can get the content they need to grow and
Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal
could have profound consequences for the nascent market for Internet
video — a market that could eat into Comcast’s core cable TV business if
enough consumers drop their cable subscriptions in favor of low-cost
Genachowski wants to ensure that Comcast won’t be
able to use its control over NBC’s vast media empire to withhold content
from emerging online competitors such as Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc.
and Apple Inc. — locking consumers into costly monthly cable bills to
get access to a wide range of popular programming. (Yahoo)
Anyone who thinks that it will be possible to keep Comcast from using it’s control over NBC to gain unfair advantage clearly doesn’t understand business. Business all out war, dirty tricks and all. This is doubly true in the entertainment and cable industry. Gentlemen’s agreements are never honored. And monopolists always seek out government and regulating bodies to gain advantage and maintain a monopoly.
The only condition that should be given to Comcast / NBC are as follows: Either divest from Internet Access and broadcast properties or open a dozen or so channels on the coax to be leased to competitive access providers at a fair wholesale rate. Anything less will create an advantage the regulators will never be able to control. It’s something akin to allowing Exxon to own half of the freeways along with half of the gasoline business and then allowing it to buy GM.
I’m not singling out Comcast. You can’t have sole rights to the pipe, content and value added services without lots of help from people in high places. It’s not a natural monopoly and could never happen without government sanction. It’s time for government to return to it’s chartered role of insuring a level playing field for an unlimited number of businesses to compete instead of sanctioning oligarchies.
In a perfect world, a business should be able to do just about anything it wants to. That of course assumes that the company is competing in a free and open marketplace. Comcast as a government sanctioned monopoly and NBC as a near monopoly should never be allowed to merge without giving up interest in their non-competitive businesses. Unfortunately the best Congress money can buy and an FCC run by industry insiders are happily allowing the merger with only a few strings attached. As we should expect, Comcast / NBC is outraged:
Comcast and NBC Universal executives met with senior officials at the Federal Communications Commission this week, urging the agency against conditions to their proposed merger that would require the new company to provide shows and movies to Internet video distributors.
The Monday meeting comes after sources indicated to Post Tech that federal regulators would impose such conditions on their merger. The merger, proposed one year ago, is close to gaining approval if Comcast agrees to voluntary conditions on video program access to Internet companies like Apple TV and Google TV, sources said. (Washington Post)
At one time, networks could not own content or more than one broadcast outlet. When the channel universe grew, the rules relaxed allowing a handful of companies to dominate the content business. Similarly, regulators allowed a universe of access providers to devolve into one or two per market. Are we doomed to devolve into a two provider universe for both content and access before we all come to our senses?