Comcast's monopoly power won't be dulled by weak conditions

4 April 2015 by Steve Blum
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Nope, that’s not Pacman, it’s what Comcast’s market share will look like in California, with or without conditions.

More of the specific objections that led to a long list of proposed conditions for California Public Utilities Commission approval of the Comcast – Time Warner – Charter mega deal were posted yesterday. Although the juicy bits have been blacked out due to confidentiality concerns, the comments filed by a consumer advocacy group – TURN, which stands for Toward Utility Rate Normalisation the Utility Reform Network – back up the claim that the merger and market swap would give Comcast a virtual monopoly on broadband service in California.

According to Susan Baldwin, an expert witness hired by TURN…

The residential voice and residential broadband Internet access markets are not now competitive and the Joint Applicants are major suppliers in these markets. The concentrated voice market and the highly concentrated broadband Internet access market suggest that there is insufficient competition to yield just and reasonable rates, terms, and conditions for these two essential products: market concentration is a strong indicator of market power. Moreover the absence of effective competition means that, post-merger, there would be no incentive for Comcast to share its merger-related synergies with its customers.

Although the conclusion was that the harm that the deal will do to Californians is so great that it shouldn’t be approved, TURN’s comments also suggested an alternative: if the merger is approved, impose a long list of conditions, which it helpfully provided.

That list made it more or less intact into the proposed decision floated by a CPUC administrative law judge in February, with due credit going to TURN which, in turn, filed comments saying hey, that’s not what we said. TURN’s arguments and the opinions offered by its expert witness do a good job of explaining why the deal should be killed. The list of alternative conditions won’t fix the problem that TURN does such a good job of detailing and, in all likelihood, will be tossed out by the courts and the FCC. Maybe it wasn’t so helpful after all.

Click to download…

TURN comments on Comcast – Time Warner – Charter deal
TURN motion on Comcast – Time Warner – Charter deal
Testimony of TURN’s expert witness, Susan Baldwin
Reply testimony of TURN’s expert witness, Susan Baldwin