The court agreed with AT&T and Comcast’s argument, saying, “It is clear that the [Metro Nashville] Charter grants NES broad, unencumbered power to manage and control the properties of the Electric Power Board. It expressly denies that power to the Mayor, the Council, and any other agency of the Metro Nashville government.”
Comcast says it’s a “recognized provider of protected speech under the First Amendment and, as such, may not be singled out for undue burdens that infringe on such rights.”
Writer Andrew Jerell Jones also points out how Comcast-owned NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC can rarely be bothered to reveal their parent company’s lobbying on this subject, or in fact cover net neutrality in their news reporting much at all. Even purportedly “progressive” MSNBC has been frequently criticized for rarely talking about the subject.
The 2015 Order famously outlined clear net neutrality rules. But those rules only passed muster because the Order also explicitly classified broadband service as a “common carrier” service, regulated by Title II of the Communications Act, rather than an “information service” regulated by Title I of the same Act. And that classification has several corollary effects, because Title II isn’t just about net neutrality. It is also meant to curtail the anti-competitive conduct from incumbent monopolists like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. In essence, as common carriers, they are not able to use their power to control the Internet experience, and they are not able to directly harm their competitors in the broadband market.
Google Fiber’s deployment ran into snags in Austin, Texas when those poles were owned by AT&T, because the surest way to prevent competition is to just physically prevent their entry into your market. If a company the size of Google could be stifled without the law supporting them, what hope does a smaller ISP have in entering into a market where the incumbent broadband provider owns the poles that are a necessary component to deploying the network? The FCC Chairman’s plan fundamentally ignores this problem and offers no clear solution to competitors. An incumbent broadband provider that owns a lot of the poles is going to have no federal legal obligation to share that access at fair market rates if broadband is no longer a common carrier service.
For example, the elimination of Verizon would result in significantly less competition for Comcast in the Northeast United States. Currently, the Northeast is becoming one of the last places in the country Comcast hasn’t deployed usage caps, thanks in large part to Verizon’s FiOS domination of the coast. The end result of most of Hodulik’s scenarios would be higher rates and worse service for most consumers as Comcast gained a total monopoly in many east coast markets. Then again, Trump telecom advisor and former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison doesn’t believe telecom monopolies are real.
According to the latest Broadband Progress Report from the FCC, 4% of all Americans — and only 2% of people in Washington state — lack access to even the most basic non-mobile broadband service. But Seth’s story makes us wonder how many consumers are being counted as having access to these services when in fact the service providers refuse to make them available?
That’s why it’s in the best interest of Comcast, CenturyLink and others to assume an address is serviceable just because it falls within a certain ZIP code or municipal boundary — because it gives the illusion that they are providing service to more customers.
The joy of being a vertically integrated company is being able to exercise something called vertical leverage. Basically, the bigger Comcast gets, the more extraordinary financial power they wield. The terms they can negotiate upstream and downstream are more likely to be favorable to them, and not to anyone else.
A report [PDF] from the Consumer Federation of America calls these “bottleneck points.” And the bigger Comcast gets, the more of them they have — as in their recent peering dispute with Netflix.
In the end, making Comcast bigger only gives it more leverage — a company that would control the lion’s share of to-the-home information for this country. Until such a time when (and if) wireless and fiber providers begin offering a service that competes with cable Internet on speed, availability and cost, consumers are only going to see the walls around Comcast’s sandbox grow taller, while bottlenecked Internet businesses face higher and higher tolls for access to a huge portion of American homes and offices.
The reason this deal is scary is that for the vast majority of businesses in 19 of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country, their only choice for a high-capacity wired connection will be Comcast. Comcast, in turn, has its own built-in conflicts of interest: It will be serving the interests of its shareholders by keeping investments in its network as low as possible — in particular, making no move to provide the world-class fiber-optic connections that are now standard and cheap in other countries — and extracting as much rent as it can, in all kinds of ways. Comcast, for purposes of today’s public , is calling itself a “cable company.” It no longer is. Comcast sells infrastructure subject to neither competition nor a cop on the beat.
McGinn’s major opponent, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), has committed to honoring the city’s existing contracts for a 14-neighborhood pilot project, but has shown limited enthusiasm about McGinn’s plans to expand the network in the future. So the election could determine whether Seattle residents have new options for high-speed broadband service, or will have to make do with the slower services already offered by incumbents like Comcast.
The download feature, which lets Comcast adopt an iTunes-ish model without the incremental pay-per-view component (for now), is a nice add-on because it lets users watch shows and movies on planes and in other venues that usually don’t have a solid enough broadband connection for streaming.