Comcast seems to think there’s a difference between complete or just overwhelming market control


Comcast could end up with half of the broadband subscribers in the U.S. or maybe only something more than a third, if it’s allowed to take over Time-Warner and swap markets with Charter Communications. Whether it’s a half or just a third (or a bit more), depends on your definition of what broadband is and is not.

A Bloomberg article by Todd Shields and David McLaughlin breaks down the dilemma. If you take the FCC’s current minimum standard – speeds of 4 Mbps down and 1 up – then Comcast would only own 35.5% of U.S. fixed – wireline, for practical purposes – broadband subscribers.

On the other hand, if you read FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s declaration that 25 Mbps is the new 4 as something other than a lobbyist’s bog standard bloviation, then the new Comcast’s national market share would jump to 50% or more.

The distinction appears important for Comcast’s quest

The argument matters because opponents say the $45.2 billion merger would result in a company with so large a market share it could squelch competition.

Under the faster standard, “the cable guys have a stone-cold monopoly,” said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington-based nonprofit that opposes the deal. “The merger becomes intolerable if you understand that.”

The merger would combine the nation’s biggest and second biggest cable providers and the Federal Communications Commission is reviewing whether it is in the public interest. Rivals such as Dish Network Corp. and Netflix Inc., and some consumer groups, say the transaction would leave Comcast with too much power in the broadband market.

I’m not sure it really makes a difference. Just a third sounds less dire than more than half but either way it’s a controlling share of an uncompetitive market. And complete domination in California.