For more than a decade, the Federal Communications Commission has been failing to protect the public interest and strengthen the nation’s broadband infrastructure. It’s pretty much game over if the FCC and the Department of Justice allow the death of net neutrality and the planned Comcast and AT&T megadeals, all very real possibilities.
AT&T’s proposal on to take over DirecTV is the latest bombshell in the drive by huge corporations to eliminate competition. As Bay Area News Group columnist Troy Wolverton explained last week, the deal "would leave some 27 million American households with one fewer choice for pay TV service and would further entrench an already powerful company in AT&T."
The deal comes on the heels of Comcast’s $45 billion bid to create a television and Internet colossus by merging with Time Warner Cable. Meanwhile, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler seems to have no clue of the importance of equal access to the Internet for the online economy.
Eliminating net neutrality or allowing further consolidation of the communications industry are not in consumers’ interests. Consumer dissatisfaction even now is rampant.
The FCC recently announced that consumers’ average bill for pay TV had outpaced the 1.6 percent rise of inflation in 2012. The jump in basic cable was 6.5 percent to $22.63 a month, while the increase in expanded basic was 5.1 percent to $64.41.
Meanwhile, a survey released last week by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index reported that users gave both Internet and pay TV service providers abysmal scores. In fact, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company covered by the survey -- and that includes airlines, health insurance companies, utilities and banks.
The same day the customer satisfaction report landed with a thud, Wheeler strode into Congress to defend his controversial net neutrality proposal before a congressional committee. Even Republicans appeared skeptical. His plan would allow broadband providers such as Verizon and AT&T to strike deals on a case-by-case basis with content providers for faster delivery of their products.
Wheeler has been all over the place in recent weeks about how the FCC would approach this. He maintains the agency has the capacity and judgment to pull off this balancing act. Given what we’ve seen so far, call us skeptical.
The Internet works best when content is offered on an equal basis for users to pick and choose, regardless of the carrier or provider.
Consumers need more competition, not less, among communication companies. Merging two big companies with already bad service cannot end well for customers.
~Contra Costa (Calif.) Times