Cable giants need approval, see competition, for internet service

Mar 04, 2015 2:28 pm
Internet providers were expected to sue the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's net neutrality rules, passed last week. But now The Washington Post is reporting that many have other battles to fight. AT&T wants FCC and Justice Department approval for its $49 billion merger with DirecTV. Verizon has a proposed deal with Frontier Communications that also needs federal approval. And Comcast is seeking approval from many government agences for a $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. "Optically, it looks bad for Comcast to say, 'We don't agree with whatever the FCC's doing,' but, 'Oh, you need to approve our merger,'" one anonymous industry analyst told Post. But 'optics' aren't usually a problem for cable television companies such as Time Warner, one the cable giants that are now key players in internet access nationwide. Bruce Kushnick of the New Networks Institute, a consumer advocacy group, told Capital New York that the industry has a tradition of charging more with imaginary fees. He points to Time Warner bills with charges for a “Broadcast TV Fee,” or “Public Access Fee,” and “Regulatory Recovery Fee.” “Made up garbage,” says Kushnick, not required by any government regulation or tax rule. Already, New York State has delayed its decision on the Comcast-Time Warner merger five times, perhaps waiting for the feds to move first. The FCC won't decide the issue until at least March 30, and then the Justice Department weighs in on the proposed merger of the two least popular companies in America, according to the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index. Remember the recording of the phone call between customer Ryan Block and a belligerent Comcast service reprsentative that went viral last summer? Customers with only a cable option for internet service, and others who want to spend less, might have a new alternative soon for internet service. Slate reports Google confirmed this week that the company will announce a wireless service of its own soon. They won't hang their own antennae on towers around the country, but partner with Verizon and AT&T's smaller rivals, Sprint and T-Mobile. The Slate writer, Will Oremus, thinks it will be, "a 'Wi-Fi first' service that could deliver adequate, if slightly spotty, coverage at a fraction of the prevailing cost." It would focus on data coverage, rather then phone and text, since anyone can use many web apps such as Skype, FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger over a data plan for those features.
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