By Doug Porter
The pending merger of Time-Warner Cable and Comcast has made headlines everywhere today. Sadly, most of the coverage is missing the mark when it comes to the real significance of the deal. The tone, if not the actual content of the reportage, generally suggests that there is concern about creation of a cable monopoly.
The #1 and # 2 cable TV providers compete head-to-head in very few markets. In fact, when it comes to cable TV, competition is a rarity. In San Diego it was decided long ago to be in the ‘public interest’ to split the county into north and south region cable providers. These companies are more like a cartel than they are competitors.
So the proposed deal won’t affect the actual connection people use or, for the time being, its cost. The combination of Comcast-TWC will end up with about 30 million subscribers, but that number is less than the percentage (roughly 33%) of the overall pay TV market the FCC is likely to worry about. Non-cable providers, like AT&T and Dish Network will keep enough share of the market for the government and the industry to say there is adequate “competition”.
The real concern here needs to be about broadband. The largely privately built networks providing access in the US are slower and more expensive that those in much of the world. According the New York Times, The World Economic Forum ranked the United States 35th out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth.
While there are some (much faster) municipally owned systems around the country, the communications industry has prevailed upon the conservative cookie cutters at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote legislation prohibiting public investment.
While it’s generally agreed that faster and cheaper internet would increase GDP, the costs of providing such service (especially in less populated areas) are not attractive to companies. And increasing the size of one of the primary entities providing such service could actually slow down service–except for a select few.
Here’s Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times making the case for why this merger is such a bad idea:
Let’s get to the bottom line. There’s no way this combination can conceivably be in the public interest. The deal is a blunt challenge to the Federal Communications Commission and its new chairman, Tom Wheeler; the question is whether the FCC will fold against the economic and political power of these two behemoths.
As the leading provider of Internet services to American homes, Comcast has already shown that it’s not above using its effective near-monopoly on Internet connectivity in its service area to stifle competitors. The FCC slapped its wrist after it was caught engaging in this illicit behavior in 2007, but then inexplicably waved through Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011.
The acquisition of Time Warner Cable will simply expand the geographical area subject to its ruthless competitive practices. (Comcast is committed to adhering to standards of net neutrality, which forbid its discriminating among Web services in carrying them to subscribers’ homes, until January 2018. That was a condition of the NBCUniversal deal, but after that date the shackles are off.)
It’s my observation that Cable TV as we know it today is probably headed down the same bleak path as print media. The industry has sown the seeds of its own destruction via bundling and programming limitations that are inherently anti-consumer friendly. Hence, the increasing popularity of the phenomena known as cord-cutting.
Via Think Progress:
...the move also comes at a time when the cable business is highly unsettled. The cable market isn’t yet in any sort of free fall, but cord cutting–the phenomenon of viewers ditching their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming content from services like Netflix, comfortable in a new media environment where you can catch up on programming by binge-watching–is a real phenomenon. And it’s one that cable companies would be smart to hedge against.
Comcast is citing competition from the internet as a justification for the merger: David Cohen, executive vice president of the company, wrote in a memo on the proposed sale that “In today’s market, with national telephone and satellite competitors growing substantially, with Google having launched its 1 GB Google Fiber offering in a number of markets across the country, and consumers having more choice of pay TV providers than ever before, Comcast believes that there can be no justification for denying the company the additional scale that will help it compete more effectively.”
With this in mind, I leave you with Boing Boing’s technology writer Xeni Jardin’s twitternalisis:
Xeni Jardin ✔ @xeni Comcast to acquire Time Warner Cable. The newly merged company will be called “why is my internet so slow.
Banned From Facebook, For A While
San Diego’s City Beat’s Valentine Day/ Sex Issue got some of it’s crew banished from Facebook for a half-day or so.
It seems that reposting links to Kinsee Morlan’s article on sexologist and erotic photographer Nick Karras is a big non-no. A photo-montage with a hint of nipple is the apparent offender that sending the FB church ladies into a tizzy.
Morlan and CB editor David Rolland were both punished. Because sex = bad, you know.
Do read the article here. And repost it on Facebook if you feel the need…
Who Will Replace Faulconer?
The OB Rag’s Frank Gormlie asked the question and speculated a bit yesterday about who would might be selected to replace Kevin Faulconer on the city council once he ascends to Mayor.
The tentative date for Faulconer’s inauguration is March 3rd. The full Council – minus Faulconer but with David Alvarez – then has 30 business days in which to appoint an interim replacement for the District 2 seat to complete Faulconer’s term, which ends in December 2014. The Council will then be 5 to 3 Democrats to Republicans when the appointment is made.
And don’t forget, there’s an election to actually democratically fill the District 2 seat this year; the Primary is in June and the General Election is in November.
So, the City Council will appoint someone. Who will it be?
Names up for discussion included:
- Michael Zucchet-”who represented District 2 – has a job and it’s the head of the Municipal Employees Association.”
- Wayne Raffesberger- “ too partisan a Republican for the Dem majority to consider him.”
- Byron Wear – “Republican and former District rep.”
- Dave Martin – “former prez of the OB Town Council “
- Gretchen Newsom, “current leader of the Town Council”
- Rich Grosch, “Community College trustee and long-time activist at the beach”
- Denny Knox, “long-time manager of the OB Mainstreet Association”
Banned In OB?
Today’s edition of the OB Rag features a story about editor-dude Gormlie getting kicked off the lawn at the OB public library for “loitering.” …Which is pretty dammed ironic, given how he led rallies to save the location from being closed a few years back. I guess OB’s gone back to the days when long hairs were harassed just for breathing.
Carl DeMaio. Free at Last?
The former City Councilman and congressional candidate has gotten his money’s worth out of an internet-only (at 1:23 it’s not running on any other media) video ad featuring brief glimpses of him and partner Jonathan Hale holding hands.
It must have been a slow news day, as the Wall Street Journal and a host of other media rushed to cover the story. And the conversation on Twitter was wide ranging… Was this a good day for GOP? …Was DeMaio sincere about coming out? and… Does this mean partner Jonathan Hale’s past is fair game?
The Wall Street Journal article pointed out the potential downsides for DeMaio from his side of the aisle:
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, criticized the ad as a ploy to raise money from more liberal parts of the country. “What he’s trying to do is figure out a way to raise money from San Francisco, Hollywood, Miami Beach, not from the district,” he said.
Mr. Brown, who has criticized Mr. DeMaio for supporting marriage equality and other positions at odds with the GOP platform, said his group plans to run ads against the Republican ahead of the June 3 primary in the hopes of boosting one of his GOP rivals. In a message to supporters last year, Mr. Brown criticized GOP leaders for backing Mr. DeMaio, labeling him “a trophy candidate they can point to and say to the media, ‘See, we’re progressive, too. We’ve evolved.’
And we were reminded of his pledge to anti-gay advocate Charles LiMandri during DeMaio’s mayoral effort, as quoted from an email in City Beat:
“Carl DeMaio specifically promised me, as a condition of my support, that he would not push the gay agenda issues (including same-sex marriage) as did Mayor Sanders. Rather, he was emphatic with me that he did not believe that the Mayor should concern himself with these issues as they are not his responsibility.”
Celebration of Life: Carlos Blanco & Iris Blanco Arevalo
Students, faculty and staff at UCSD will be participating in a celebration of life for Carlos Blanco on Friday at the the Price Center from 5-8pm.
Blanco was a founding member of UC San Diego’s Department of Literature, a noted scholar on Spanish and Latin authors and lifelong progressive. He passed away on September 11th after a long illness.
From the UT-San Diego obituary:
“When Carlos got here, he looked around and asked why were there no black students, why were there no Mexican students, why were there no African-American or Mexican-American faculty,” said good friend and UC San Diego literature professor Jorge Mariscal. “He aimed to create a diverse college.”
His efforts contributed to the founding of the Third College in 1970, which later was renamed as Thurgood Marshall College and which houses minors in community service and African-American studies at the campus.
Mr. Blanco also served as a faculty adviser to the Mexican American Youth Association (later known as MEChA), and was a founder of the Third World Studies program.
On This Day: 1635 – The Boston Public Latin School was established. It was the first public school building in the United States. 1972 – Led Zeppelin was forced to cancel a concert in Singapore when officials wouldn’t let them off the plane because of their long hair. 2000 – Charles M. Schulz’s last original Sunday “Peanuts” comic strip appeared in newspapers. Schulz had died the day before.
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