Posted by: Ann Treacy | February 14, 2014

Comcast slows Netflix, Comcast buys Time Warner, Net Neutrality withers…

Here are two recent articles that seem should be juxtaposed:

Netflix members who use Comcast face streaming hiccups & Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable

The Pioneer Press reports that …

If the Netflix video you watch via a Comcast connection seems slow and unreliable, you are not alone.

Other Comcast customers in the Twin Cities and around the country said they have been frustrated with poor-quality Netflix video, frequent streaming hiccups and other issues that, in certain cases, have persisted for months.

The issue apparently isn’t video, it’s the video supplier…

“Netflix is BY FAR the worst on my Sony Bravia” TV, Bob Collins, who works at Minnesota Public Radio, said in a Twitter post. “Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, everything else is just fine.”

Anthony Domanico, a St. Paul-based technology journalist, also sees better performance with Amazon streaming than with Netflix, which he said is plagued with a less-than-optimal video resolution and frequent pauses to reconnect with Netflix’s servers. This problem has persisted since November, he said.

At the same time, Channel 4 reports…

Comcast has agreed to pay $158.82 per share of Time Warner Cable stock, according to two people with direct knowledge of the transaction who insisted on anonymity because the deal will not be publicly announced until Thursday morning.

The two companies expect the merger to receive government approval and take effect by the end of the year, but regulators are likely to take a close look at the potential impact on consumers. Through the consolidation of Time Warner Cable, Comcast would be the dominant provider of television channels and Internet connections in roughly one in three American homes, a total unmatched by any other distributor.

The Time Warner article doesn’t bring up Net Neutrality – but it does bring up issues related to able ownership in any given market…

But even before the official announcement of the deal, questions arose about whether Comcast will be allowed to expand its cable footprint so substantially.

Regulators used to enforce a rule that prohibited a single cable company from controlling more than 30% of the market. But Comcast led a challenge to that rule in the mid-2000s, and in 2009 a federal appeals court threw out the 30% cap.

Still, the Justice Department and other federal agencies will surely line up to scrutinize the proposed combination.

Media ownership is a big deal to me – because media ownership decides whose voices gets heard.

The Netflix article does bring up Net Neutrality…

And Comcast’s NBC television operations compete directly with Netflix’s original content for TV-viewer eyeballs.

The potential Comcast-NBC market dominance came up as a concern during hearings in 2010 when Comcast was attempting to buy the TV network. And Comcast in 2007 was accused of blocking access to the BitTorrent file-downloading service.

More recently, a court struck down Federal Communications Commission “net neutrality” rules that prohibited Internet providers from favoring one service or app over another. Such rules would have been a clear impediment to throttling of, or other such meddling with, third-party services.

Netflix, for its part, acknowledges problems with its service via certain Internet providers but said the situation does not qualify as a crisis.

The issues are potentially wonky and potentially boring. (Netflix has a solution to help ISPs better stream their videos, but Comcast chooses not to avail of the service.) But the impact is something that customers deal with daily. And when you talk about Netflix it seems like a conversation about convenience but as recent discussions in Minnesota have indicated the Internet isn’t a convenience it’s a utility. People get access to education. Healthcare, employment as well as new and information. What happens if some provider decides to filter based on those needs, not just video downloads?


Responses

  1. According to Blois Olson’s Morning take, both MN Senators have issues here… http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5c3cc7495e9273c8e831e32c3&id=37cfceb431&e=f64003f6cc

    CABLE: via news release from Sen. Al Franken, VERBATIM: “U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) pressed federal regulators to carefully look into Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time-Warner Cable, saying that the merger could be bad for consumers by driving up cable rates. FRANKEN: “I have serious reservations about this proposed transaction, which would consolidate the largest and second largest cable providers in America,” Sen. Franken wrote in a letter to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission. “I urge you to act quickly and decisively to ensure that consumers are not exposed to increased cable prices and decreased quality of service as a result of this transaction.”…Sen. Franken also noted that the $40 billion plus merger comes only a few years after Comcast’s acquisition of NBC-Universal—a move that Franken vehemently opposed—and said that further consolidation could be a bad deal for consumers.

    KLOBUCHAR: via statement from Sen. Amy Klobuchar VERBATIM: “This proposed merger could have a significant impact on the cable industry and affect consumers across the country,” Klobuchar said. “As chair of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, I plan to hold a hearing to carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”


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