HuffPo’s gotten all commercial and crass on us in the past few years, so if somebody writing for them (probably without pay but that’s a different story) is coming out against this latest bit of commercial crassness you know what’s up is bad.
Pass it on:
by Timothy Stenovec
You’re probably already thinking that the merger of the two biggest cable companies in the United States isn’t going to turn out great for regular people.
Guess what? You’re on to something. If Comcast’s proposed $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable actually happens (and that’s a big if), then the giant company would have 30 million customers and dominate cable and Internet service throughout the U.S.
Here are some fairly terrible things that could happen if the deal goes through:
1. The End Of Unlimited Data At Home:
As Gigaom notes, Time Warner Cable broadband customers don’t have monthly data caps — they can stream as much video, download as much content and surf the web as much as they like without worrying about going over any sort of monthly allotment. Comcast, however, is testing out data caps in cities in at least six states.
Customers in these areas who pay for Comcast’s Xfinity service are limited to 300 gigabytes of data per month, meaning they can only use 300 GB worth of Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and iTunes. For many people, that’s enough. But considering thatan hour of HD video on Netflix uses about 2.8 GB, or an Xbox One game downloadcan be a whopping 44GB, the allotment can go pretty quickly for some people. If they go over that, they are charged a fee of $10 for every 50 gigabytes used. With control of even more markets through the Time Warner Cable acquisition, data caps for Time Warner Cable customers could be on the horizon.
“The era of abundance in the broadband market is over,” said Derek Turner, the research director for Free Press, a nonpartisan advocacy group. “The era of artificial scarcity is now upon us.”
2. Slower Netflix:
For months, the average speed of Netflix video during primetime has been slowing on Comcast and Verizon networks, leading some customers to complain about poor quality and long load times. This is the result, experts say, of congestion: Comcast and other ISPs are not investing in enough network infrastructure to handle the massive amounts of data Netflix is sending them.
Netflix has a program called Open Connect that gives ISPs the option to connect to Netflix-dedicated servers, which would help with congestion — but neither Time Warner nor Comcast participate. A company like Comcast, which has its own video-on-demand and pay TV services, and says Netflix is a competitor, may not be interested in improving Netflix quality. ISPs also don’t want to cede control, and according to the Wall Street Journal, say Open Connect is a way for Netflix to get around paying fees.
If Comcast doesn’t address network issues, and people continue to stream more and more, the quality of Netflix on the network could continue to suffer.
Because of its merger with NBC, Comcast for now has to follow the Federal Open Internet rules, also known as net neutrality, which say that it can’t treat traffic from one service, say Netflix, Google or Facebook, differently from another service. A Comcast takeover would extend those open Internet protections to Time Warner Cable customers. But if Netflix, or any competing service, for that matter, is streaming poorly on Comcast — not because of net neutrality, but because of congestion — or the competing service doesn’t offer what people want to watch, then customers could be more likely to turn to Comcast’s service.
3. Fewer Good Choices On Netflix, Amazon and Hulu: