Just a few months ago, the $45 billion Comcast—Time Warner Cable merger was considered all but a done deal. But last week the FCC announced that they had located their regulatory vertebrae and would take a hard line on net neutrality. Regulation kills jobs and profits and Freedom, so now the merger's prospects are looking a little less certain.
The Times reports that suddenly, the transformation of a virtual duopoly into a virtual monopoly might be offensive to the federal employees charged with overseeing these sort of things:
“The prospects for the deal, while they’re still not bad, have continued to go down,” said Kevin Werbach, a former F.C.C. counsel and a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“What the F.C.C. is now apparently going to adopt signals a much harder line on their view of the state of competition in the broadband market,” Mr. Werbach said. “If their view is that the market is not working as it is right now, it’s less likely that they’re going to feel that a combination of two of the largest players is going to be in the public interest.”
You can't fault Comcast for not trying: they spent $17 million lobbying Washington last year, and will likely have to spend more to convince us that this merger is a good idea.
"We know for sure that Comcast will raise prices. Comcast has consistently charged more for less than any other cable company," Columbia Law professor Tim Wu testified at a hearing on the merger last month.
"They would like to defend the cable model, where you pay for the 200 channels. They don't want people core-cutting and just becoming internet users. To keep people paying their $150 dollars per month, and maybe paying more, they can't have people quitting cable. And that means they have to make the Internet competitors to cable TV lousy, no good, never quite as good. That's really what the game is here."
An analyst who spoke to the Times puts the merger's odds at 70-30, down from 80-20. The FCC indicated that it would decide on the merger in March, though it may take longer; just enough time for some HBO writers to kill it for good.