How the Net Neutrality Debate Saved Us from Cable Giants

Comcast has officially called off its $45.2 billion deal with Time Warner, a deal that opponents argued would have created an unfair monopoly on the cable and broadband industry.

“A combined Comcast/Time Warner would control around 57 percent of the broadband market (32 million Internet subscribers) and more than 30 percent of the pay-TV market (more than 30 million customers).

 

In some markets — including the Bay Area — there’s little to no competition for broadband and cable service already. And if you don’t believe that monopolies have problems with service and efficiency, just ask a local how they feel about their provider.” — The New York Times, April 26, 2015

The fierce net neutrality debate that dominated the public space in 2014 could be a driving force in the failed merger, with increased interest in consumer rights on the Internet arising from last year’s controversial Comcast-Netflix negotiations.

 

Net Neutrality: What It Is and What It Isn’t

 

During the negotiations between the two companies, it was revealed that download speeds for Netflix customers significantly dropped, and didn’t turn around until after the deal was made.

Soon after, President Barack Obama made a public statement strongly urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt strong net neutrality rules in order to ensure that the flow of information online is “free of toll roads” and “gatekeepers.”

Heading the advice of the president, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler commented that the Comcast-Time Warner merger posed “unacceptable risk to competition and innovation.”

And let’s not forget the role of the public in bringing the debate on net neutrality to the forefront of the national dialogue and holding broadband providers accountable.

New York University Law Professor Christopher Sprigman comments:

“It was subtle, but Net neutrality framed the debate. Through that process, it became clear that the state of broadband for the average consumer is pretty bad. And regulators didn’t want to make an already bad situation worse by giving one of the largest broadband providers more power.”

Elevating the issue of net neutrality and injecting the voice of the president, the FCC, the Department of Justice, and most importantly, the people, could have just prevented these cable giants from completely taking over the Internet, protecting our ability to freely surf the Internet — for now.