It's confirmed that Comcast Corporation plans to purchase Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, creating a single service with over 30 million customers. But if the merger is approved by government regulators, it could impact even more than Comcast and Time Warner subscribers.
The consolidation of the nation's two top cable and broadband internet providers will mean coast-to-coast coverage under one business roof—from New York City to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and beyond. The United States has never seen this level of coverage before, which approaches the scope of corporations like the UK's BBC or Japan's NHK, national broadcast corporations with mandatory public funding.
However, the collection of so many subscribers under one hood may give a merged cable and content provider disproportionate power—especially since streaming providers like Netflix and Aereo are poised to replace cable TV as America's primary method of content consumption.
For instance, weakened net-neutrality rules rules mean that Comcast—now dual-wielding a very strong position as both Internet service provider and streaming content provider—can choose to allocate much higher bandwidth to its own services, while simultaneously steering subscribers to its own content.
These and other concerns will inform the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, and Federal Communications Commission's decisions regarding the acquisition. Within the cable ecosystem—including broadband internet services, landline telephone services, cable services, and content partnerships—a combined Comcast/TWC could dictate the future direction of both cable and internet services across the United States.