This week I want to talk about the end of the proposed merger between Time-Warner Cable (TWC) and Comcast. Comcast officially pulled its bid and there are no further talks going on between the two companies.
This is generally considered good for proponents of Net Neutrality. I am a little less positive, because the biggest issue I had was Comcast’s ownership of NBC Universal. TWC and Comcast did not really compete for residential service. Each had distinct area of operation. I have seen maps that show overlap, but I am not sure that any actual homes could get service from both providers. That means that users saw no net competition change with the merger. To generate more competition, we need more networks. It is rare to see an over-builder come in. Google is the biggest of these, but not the only. In fact, it has been some time since Google has announced new cities to get Google Fiber.
Now the reason that I worry more about NBC Universal as part of Comcast is the way that U-verse handles video today. Right, I know that sounds like it makes no sense but hear me out. U-verse shares the local DSL connection between Internet Service and TV Service. TV service receives priority here and it is not considered a violation of Net Neutrality. If you want to test this, have a U-verse subscriber turn on as much video as they can and run a speed test. Then have them do the same with the video off. You will find a large difference between the two results. I am not saying that AT&T is doing anything wrong. I am just saying that the TV service is in a “fast lane” from the consumer’s standpoint.
For Comcast, it seems possible to me that they will invent an IP based video service that acts the same way and focuses on content that Comcast owns. This includes NBC Universal content and Hulu. Comcast is a part owner of Hulu, so don’t forget that. They could easily make a case that they could make that service as a TV service and have it follow the same rules as U-Verse. This would make video from this service have priority over Netflix and other similar services. Follows the letter of the law, not so sure about the spirit.
Also, over the last couple of weeks the opening legal salvos have begun. Today, the ACA and NCTA asked the FCC to Stay its Title II implementation order. There have been lawsuits as well. So anybody who things we are done, well we aren’t!
Have a great weekend.
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