For competition, we must stop the Charter/Time Warner Cable merger
“Markets work best when there is healthy competition among businesses. In too many industries, that competition just doesn’t exist anymore.”
This past weekend, The New York Times editorial board railed against a troubling trend in America: mergers. Too many corporations are trying to cash in and corner the market while Americans pay the price. And Charter Communications is hoping they’re the next to do it in an already over-consolidated broadband market.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, competition in the broadband market doesn’t even exist for a majority of Americans. A staggering 75% of American households have only one option in a broadband provider, at most, for the minimum high-speed Internet speeds of 25 megabits per second.
Think that’s pathetic? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
We’re paying much higher prices for slower broadband speeds than our friends abroad. Slightly more than half of rural Americans have access to the FCC’s recommended minimum speeds. And while the proportion of households with Internet service has been rising steadily for decades, the Pew Research Center recently uncovered that the adoption rate had slowed — a concerning bellweather of competition in the broadband industry and a growing digital divide.
If you haven’t figured it out by now — when a provider is the only game in town, they have no incentive to lower your bill, improve your speeds or treat you like a human being over the phone when you try to cancel service or make an appointment. Is it any wonder that ISPs rank below the majority of other industries in customer satisfaction?
So while the majority of Americans are being forced into mediocre plans, or being squeezed out of a connection altogether — Charter wants to convince you that their plan to acquire Time Warner Cable and join Comcast in controlling two-thirds of the nation’s high-speed broadband customers is actually a good thing.
Do we have any reason to buy what they’re selling? No. That’s why Demand Progress has teamed up with ten other organizations in a campaign to defeat this merger, telling the FCC to stand with their continued commitment to broadband access and competition by opposing this deal.
It should be a no-brainer, really. But Charter watched closely as Comcast lost the trust of everyday Americans and regulators to seal their deal — and has come to the negotiating table with a list of shiny promises, like doing away with data caps, expanding broadband deployment in rural areas and abiding by those pesky little Net Neutrality rules we fought so hard for. (How considerate!)
They also have the massive influence of their biggest shareholder—John Malone—behind them. Once dubbed the “Darth Vader of Cable” by then-Senator Al Gore, his mastery of cable industry consolidation in the United States and Europe is a signal that a bigger Charter will be terrible for consumers and will look for future acquisition — perhaps even going vertical by taking over content providers.
While broadcasters and even AT&T have come out against the deal, industry insiders are largely expecting a rosy—if slightly delayed—outcome for Charter. That’s why Internet users like you and me are going to have to give it everything we’ve got to stop this.
After all — are you really going to want to admit that your inaction helped build the next Comcast?