High costs, crappy customer service and speeds well below what’s advertised. How much do you love your Internet Service Provider (ISP)? If you have Comcast or Time Warner Cable, chances are not a lot. These two cable behemoths consistently come in at the top of “worst companies ever” lists, and we’re sure plenty of musicians can count themselves among the frustrated. Now these two companies wanna get married. But will the government allow it?
That’s something that Washington, DC is grappling with as we speak. On one side of the debate you’ve got well-heeled corporate lobbyists working on behalf of ISPs keen to make more money from controlling even more of the broadband marketplace. On the other, you’ve got regular Internet users, consumer groups and creative entrepreneurs who are tired of being promised one thing and paying out the nose for another.
Just today, more than 50 organizations, including Future of Music Coalition, signed on to a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) explaining many of the reasons that this is a bad deal.
Here’s an excerpt:
In the last four years, Comcast has raised its basic cable rates in some of its markets by nearly 70 percent, while Time Warner Cable has actually cut costs for consumers. But the higher prices and reduced choices that this deal would bring are just the tip of the iceberg.
This merger is, at its core, about broadband, the most profitable and fastest-growing segment of the cable industry. Comcast’s service area would cover almost two-thirds of the U.S., and it would be the only broadband provider that could deliver truly high-speed Internet and pay-TV services to nearly four out of every 10 U.S. homes. This union would give Comcast control over half of the nation’s next-generation broadband customers and more than half of the pay-TV/Internet-bundled subscribers.
The open Internet brings the promise of meaningful competition as it greatly reduces the gatekeeper power that incumbent cable, broadcasting and studio giants like Comcast-NBCUniversal have historically wielded. But this merger—taking place in the vacuum of regulatory oversight of our broadband-communications market—would give Comcast unprecedented control over the Internet. It would also pose a grave threat to media diversity.
Don’t think this matters to musicians? Think again. At the end of the day, this merger and others like it, are about who gets to put a price tag on access to culture. Right now there are a great many debates about the economics of creativity, but we’re convinced that in order to create sustainable alternatives, artists and innovators need access to quality, affordable Internet service. Can we trust just a couple of powerful corporations to have our best interests at heart?
FMC has long championed a legitimate digital marketplace built on innovative and lawful music services that offer fans a way to discover and pay for music and creators a means to be fairly compensated. Right now we’re at a tipping point: will vertically integrated entertainment and ISPs be able to dictate the economic terms for everyone else?
Money is pretty tight for everyone, creators included. If we’re paying hundreds of dollars per month for wireline Internet access and nearly as much for mobile data plans, how much money can we be reasonably expected to plunk down for lawful entertainment? And will our options be restricted by companies who want to favor their own content over that of, say, the independent community?