By Art Neill, New Media Rights
September 6, 2010 (San Diego) -- Though we live in the land of Time-Warner, Cox, and AT&T, the looming Comcast-NBC merger has real consequences for the future of media in San Diego and the United States.
The merger gives Comcast, owner of a pipe for information and communication (aka the internet), an unprecedented interest in the information passing through the pipe. Congress must closely scrutinize the proposed Comcast-NBC merger, because the decision will impact the health of independent and public media, like the East County Magazine, for years to come.
Most troublesome is the nature of the merger itself. This kind of vertical integration, positioning Comcast as one of the nation’s key content producers and content distributors, puts too much control over the nation’s media in the hands of one company. Indeed, Bernstein Research estimates that “Comcast would be calling the shots for one out of every five viewing hours in the United States."
As one of the nation’s largest Internet access providers, Comcast has the capability to affect the way the Internet evolves as a platform for accessing entertainment, news and information. Comcast’s interests under the proposed merger as an owner and provider of content, combined with its ability to control the way information of all types is transmitted to its customers, should raise concern amongst regulators, legislators, and everyday internet users. Approving the merger as proposed will create an environment where Comcast has every incentive to favor it’s own content while discriminating against other content across their cable TV and internet platforms.
Comcast has a long history of anti-consumer behavior and their illegal network management practices have been well documented. By blocking content and applications Comcast has hindered free speech online. Over and over again, Comcast has proven that it can’t be trusted as a steward of an open and competitive Internet.
This merger would do a disservice to independent voices throughout our nation and should be rejected. However, if the merger is allowed to proceed, regulators must make specific, and significant demands and conditions on Comcast-NBC. The merged company should, at the very least:
• make commitments not to engage in discriminatory behavior towards other content providers large and small, including refraining from interfering or disabling distribution technologies.
• be forced to cease anti-competitive bundling and marketing practices.
• commit to building high-quality, affordable broadband out to communities previously without access.
• provide significantly increased support to public access.
We as citizens must demand close scrutiny of this merger by our elected representatives.
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