Well, it’s been an interesting week for the regulatory process that the Comcast/TW Cable merger will be mired in for a while. All the excitement in the news is what Business Week properly calls a sideshow, albeit an entertaining one.
Senator Franken tried to throw a wrench in the works by pointing out that just a couple years ago when Comcast bought NBC Universal it labeled TW Cable as a competitor in numerous ways while now it is saying that they don’t compete anywhere at all. But we’re talking about the US Congress here, the irony in having them skewer someone else for stretching the same facts different ways to fit the party line du jour was lost on basically nobody.
Comcast’s official filing with the FCC this week was a fun read too. In it we learned that everyone imaginable benefits from this deal: better service, faster connections, more investment, superior consumer protection, more robust competition, greater innovation, you name it it’s in there and it’s good. It may even cure cancer if we just get out of the way, but they seem to have left that bit out. I’m not saying any of it is evil, because frankly this is just what lawyers do. They make the best case they can while making sure not to help the other side.
Comcast spent quite a bit of time in its filing detailing why it has no bottleneck, no incentive to strong-arm any peering or transit partner, and no power to do such a dastardly thing anyway. That it’s happened a few times already with the end result being Comcast getting more money than it did before wasn’t discussed, oddly enough.
But while I continue to feel that there is something substantial at stake here for the peering/transit world with this deal, I nevertheless find it hard to see a viable case for blocking it. The rise of video is changing the world of internet traffic, shifting the balance of power. That remains true whether Comcast gets bigger or not.
But in the end none of it matters. Unless something bizarre happens, the question of whether this deal gets done or not rests behind closed doors. The bureaucrats themselves and the lobbyists from all sides will do what they do, and most likely the deal will go through with some conditions. When it does, we’ll look at those conditions to tell us who won and who lost.
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