Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in a deal that's worth an estimated $45.2 billion. It's the latest in a series of high-profile mega mergers in the telecommunications world, after 2009's Comcast/NBC Universal deal and AT&T's failed 2011 acquisition of T-Mobile. But this latest deal is one of perhaps even more massive proportions than any of the previous mergers since it would create a video and Internet juggernaut that's already got 30 million subscribers and operates in some of the country's biggest media markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
And while that's great for business, it means even fewer choices for consumers. John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at the D.C. watchdog policy group Public Knowledge, explained it this way in a statement released on Wednesday:
"If Comcast takes over Time Warner Cable, it would yield unprecedented gatekeeper power in several important markets. It is already the nation's largest ISP, the nation's largest video provider, and the nation's largest home phone provider. It also controls a movie studio, broadcast network, and many popular cable channels. An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content. By raising the costs of its rivals and business partners, an enlarged Comcast would raise costs for consumers, who ultimately pay the bills. It would be able to keep others from innovating, while facing little pressure to improve its own service. New equipment, new services, and new content would have to meet with its approval to stand any chance of succeeding."
The deal would give Comcast control of more than a third of the U.S. pay-TV U.S. and more than half of the U.S. triple-play market for video, voice and Internet service, according to Free Press. That boils down to unprecedented control over the market, one in which consumers of color are already losing. People of color make up more than 36 percent of the U.S. population but hold just over 7 percent of radio licenses and 3 percent of TV licenses.
To get a sense of what this lack of choice looks like, check out this graphic. It's dated (from 2011, before NBC Universal's merger with Comcast), but it paints a pretty descriptive picture of just how few choices consumers really have: