The tech policy arena in recent days has understandably been dominated by two issues in the news – the proposed Comcast/Time-Warner Cable merger and the refusal of Net “Neutrality” proponents to allow that pernicious campaign to finally die a justified death.
Regarding the Comcast/Time-Warner Cable merger, the Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso offers one of the better primers. He rightly criticizes the anti-merger hyperbole, and notes that the agreement is actually a sign of increased competition, not diminishing competition:
To begin with, these companies do not compete with each other. Comcast and Time-Warner Cable (not to be confused with Time-Warner, the media firm from which TWC was hived off in 2009) operate in geographically distinct cable TV franchises around the country. They do not overlap.
Moreover, while they are the largest and second-largest cable TV firms nationally, that metric is largely meaningless. The paid television marketplace includes many other competitors, ranging from telecommunications firms such as Verizon and AT&T to satellite providers such as DIRECTV, to a growing band of Internet TV providers such as Netflix and Apple TV. It’s a diverse marketplace, in which Comcast and TWC together serve barely 30 percent of subscribers. (In fact, Comcast has pledged to divest cable systems to keep the share below that figure). “
The Wall Street Journal provided the same reassurance, confirming that “a merged Comcast and TWC still has plenty of competition”:
[U]nlike the markets for beer, air travel and wireless, cable companies don’t compete with each other. They have local franchises and compete against telephone, wireless and satellite companies. So there’s no market overlap between systems owned by Comcast and those of Time Warner Cable. Comcast, which is dominant in Philadelphia, will get millions of new customers in New York and Los Angeles. But how can dominance in one geographic region give Comcast new pricing power in a different area?”
And the following day, the Journal’s Holman Jenkins takes a nice swipe at the toxic un-dead specter of Net “Neutrality” as it relates to the proposed merger:
But standing in the way is the tired concept of ‘net neutrality,’ beloved by regulators and mau-mau groups but never enacted by Congress and frequently questioned by the courts. Yet now, thanks to America’s deranged merger approval process, Time Warner and Comcast risk having just such rules imposed on them (and no one else) as extortion for regulators approving their deal.”
With federal overregulation already exacerbating what has been the most sluggish economic recovery in recorded U.S. history, and with the American public listing big government as the nation’s foremost threat, the bottom line is that bureaucratic interference via Net “Neutrality” or in the private proposed merger of Comcast and Time-Warner remains a bad idea.
On a different and more optimistic note to end the week, however, Notre Dame philosophy professor Don Howard and the Manhattan Institute’s Mark Mills anticipate the upcoming arrival of self-driving automobiles, so long as overactive government regulators referenced above don’t spoil the party:
The self-driving-car solution is clear. Congress should pre-empt Nhtsa and the trial lawyers and pass a National Autonomous Vehicle Injury Act. The Fords and Nissans and Googles and Qualcomms should voluntarily create an Autonomous Vehicle Event Reporting System. And industry players should also create a National Autonomous Vehicle Compensation System. (Vaccine compensation is funded with a de minimis tax on each dose.) Last November, Nhtsa Administrator David Strickland told Congress that ‘in addition to the devastation” that “crashes cause to families, the economic costs to society reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Automated vehicles can potentially help reduce these numbers significantly.’
That potential has already been realized, whether regulators understand it or not. If the human toll from highway accidents were a disease and we knew there was a cure, it would be immoral not to marshal every corner of government and industry to deploy it.”
So allow the private sector to move forward, whether through voluntary mergers or technological innovation, beyond the interference of overzealous government regulators. What a novel concept.