Saturday, April 19, 2014

Robert Reich: Comcast-Time Warner Acquisition A Danger To American Democracy

The new monopolist
In an arena where there is scarcely any competition now, such an acquisition would leave us with only a couple of broadband internet suppliers and effectively one (1) cable company. As democracy today depends utterly on broadcast media and internet communications of various sorts, any concentration of the supply of either internet or cable TV services risks a dangerous possibility... likelihood, one may say... that the supplier will use its near-monopoly status to control what Americans see of their government, and at what speed it is delivered to them.

Robert Reich points out that far from being good for American consumers (as the merging parties claim), such a merger/sale would give Comcast and Time Warner the ability to control data and video content in the way transporters of physical goods controlled physical merchandise available to American consumers of those goods, and at what cost, before 1890, when the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed. Each major technological shift offers new opportunities for would‑be monopolists, and hence demands new law to put a stop to such manifestations of greed. The 1890 law is no longer effective; we need a new one.

As noted earlier, democracy is a scarce commodity in America today, just as it was in the First Gilded Age when Sen. John Sherman proposed a solution to at least the problem of overlarge firms that controlled their various markets in the late 19th century. Now, in the New Gilded Age (I think the term applies, don't you?), we need some brakes on the new kinds of market-controlling technologies and techniques, not to mention the new giveaways by the Supreme Court. It is time to tighten up: blocking the Comcast‑Time Warner merger is a good starting point.

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