The number of viable options for consumer Internet access to the home is small and shrinking. In many markets, it's a choice between telephone company Internet access (such as Verizon FiOS) and cable television company Internet access (such as Comcast Xfinity Internet). Certainly, the availability of more options would be better for consumer choice in terms of features and service offerings, and might also provide more pricing pressure.
A merger of two of the largest cable companies in the US to create a behemoth cable TV and broadband Internet company further reduces options. When asked about the impact of a proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable, Comcast indicated that it would not be anti-competitive because there is virtually no overlap in the current Comcast and Time Warner markets served. I believe them. The fact that they are not in the same markets means that competition for consumer choice is not being directly reduced by this proposed acquisition. Staying out of each other's markets probably was not a positive force for consumer choice, but it likely was a good business decision. Still, while a Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable may not be anti-competitive strictly speaking, it could be detrimental for consumers in a less direct way. The combined company would serve such a large portion of the home broadband market that it would wield disproportionate leverage with companies who provide bandwidth-heavy online services for home users. That could lead to more ...
Charging for Special Arrangements
There are many popular streaming video services, including Apple's television and movie rental and purchase services through iTunes, Amazon's Instant Video, Google Play Movies and TV, Hulu, and several others. But none are as popular, and account for as much prime time network traffic, as Netflix.
When you try to stream an episode of House of Cards from Netflix to your home computer or TV using your Comcast or Verizon broadband Internet access, and the connection seems a little bumpy, do you tend to blame Netflix or your home broadband Internet provider? How did you pick?
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