Consumer groups tell DoJ to block Comcast/Time Warner merger

If it goes through, Comcast will control an unimaginable swath of American Internet access — that's a hell of a lot of power to give the Worst Company in America.

Consumers Union — publisher of Consumers Report — is just one of many groups asking the Justice Department's antitrust division to block Comcast's plan to merge with Time Warner Cable. Its filing [PDF] makes a series of cogent, urgent arguments about the harms that would arise from the merger:

* Killing competition. Most consumers already don't have choices, and letting two huge companies merge won't increase that. Smaller cable programmers have pointed out that the bigger Comcast gets, the harder it is for them to stay in business anywhere. And starting a new competitor? That's basically impossible.

* Squashing innovation. Comcast, CU argues, can interfere with innovation in two key ways. One is by hindering companies like (famously) Netflix from trying new things online video distribution. The other is in hardware: there really is no competition in set-top boxes, and if one entity (Comcast) continues to dominate, there won't be. Additionally, Comcast can squeeze out hardware platforms like TiVo and Roku by, for example, not permitting their content to stream on those devices. (Or not letting Comcast subscribers use them to access services like HBOGo.)

* Blocking media diversity. That the post-merger Comcast would control nearly all of the largest TV markets in the country (16 of the top 20, and plenty of smaller ones besides) doesn't just demonstrate how many million people the deal would affect. It points to their gatekeeper power:

Because Comcast would control almost every key metropolitan market, video programmers would absolutely need distribution carriage through Comcast. In effect, Comcast could dictate what programs do or don't get carried — not only in its markets, but across America. A nightly business program, for example, would not get off the ground if it were carried only in rural markets. It would need access to cable subscribers in the New York City region, for example — and those would be Comcast/TWC subscribers."

Consumer Advocates Urge Justice Dept. To Block Comcast/TWC Merger [Kate Cox/Consumerist]