Netflix Files Petition to Block Comcast/TWC Merger

Categories:  News & Politics    Opinion
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 11:27 AM
Netflix Files Petition to Block Comcast/TWC Merger by Jim Wertz

Last week Netflix filed a petition with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to block the impending merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

As you’ll remember Reader readers, the merger will likely have a significant - and potentially negative - effect on our already poor internet and cable service in Northwest Pennsylvania.

In the 99 page brief, Netflix argues:

“The proposed merger puts at risk the end-to-end principle that has characterized the Internet and been a key driver in the creation of the most important communications platform in history. Unsurprisingly, given their dominance in the cable television marketplace, the proposed mergerwould give [Comcast and Time Warner Cable] the ability to turn a consumer's Internet experience into something that more closely resembles cable television. It would set up an ecosystem that calls into question what we to date have taken for granted: that a consumer who pays for connectivity to the Internet will be able to get the content she requests.”

The FCC already ruled that Comcast had demonstrated its ability to discriminate against online video distributors (OVDs) like Netflix by downgrading connectivity in order to financially squeeze OVDs for additional bandwidth, Netflix says.

Netflix’s primary objection to the merger is that Time Warner Cable will now have the capacity and the incentive to limit OVD connectivity in the same way that Comcast had done in recent months.  

As John Oliver reminded us back in July, the chairman of the FCC is a former lobbyist for the cable industry, which means that the Commission is unlikely to block the merger. Rather it is more likely to institute an operational mandate that it has no intention of enforcing, much like it did in allowing broadcast stations to engage in dual ownership agreements despite hearing the concerns of thousands broadcast employees, producers, and consumers.

But then again, how else does an FCC commissioner set oneself up for cushy post-FCC employment, if not by pandering to their future employers? Just ask former FCC chairman Michael Powell.  

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