Comcast applauds FCC chair's talk of broadband competition but pimps for less

6 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out his vision for the future of broadband. We applaud his focus on the importance of broadband competition to benefit all Americans.

So says Comcast’s chief lobbyist David Cohen in a blog post yesterday. He goes on at length about how Comcast is a living example of everything Wheeler said about the wonders of a competitive broadband market in a speech the day before.

And Cohen is right. Wheeler’s vision is also Comcast’s vision: a broadband market managed in Washington by people like Wheeler and Cohen who rotate jobs between government posts and giant incumbent companies, pretending to be acting for the greater good of all.

Which has nothing to do with market competition, except of the Gucci Gulf sort. As Cohen states it, allowing Comcast to swallow Time-Warner and swap markets with Charter to maximise the value of state-by-state political payoffs will result in more competition.

Which is nonsense.

To get beyond the current broadband duopoly (or in some markets, monopoly), you need to have companies that are willing to go head to head with each other. Comcast clearly isn’t: it’s argument in favor of the Time-Warner merger is based first and foremost on the fact that the two companies have never challenged each other for a single subscriber. They deliberately avoid competition.

As Daniel Frankel, writing at FierceCable, ably put it, Wheeler’s remarks were a kind of Rorschach test: your interpretation says more about what you believe ought to happen than what Wheeler will actually do.