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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Commentary

Put antitrust on the agenda


Published:

Comcast is seeking to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in stock. Combining the nation’s two largest cable providers would make one hulking monstrosity.

This is a great opportunity to reiterate that antitrust action should be part of the progressive agenda.

By and large, Americans hate their telecom providers. Monopolist service providers push prices up while investing little in capacity or repairs. The result is that, by international standards, whether for Internet connections, cellphones or cable, consumers are gouged for crummy speeds and atrocious service.

There are two basic solutions to this problem: Either treat telecoms as a monopoly deserving regulation, the way Ma Bell used to be, or break up the telecoms within individual markets, forcing them to compete with each other. Both approaches have pros and cons, but government action would be required either way. This raises another reason to prevent pointless mergers: to level the power imbalance between regulators and colossal corporate conglomerates.

Big corporations tend to be more monopolistic, more sclerotic and more prone to focusing on profits rather than good business (e.g., lobbying Congress for favors and tax breaks).

Telecom capacity is relatively cheap by infrastructure standards. For Pete’s sake, Romania manages to have the third-fastest Internet in the world. Better service is within reach — if we can get our act together. Doing so should be a key goal of progressive lawmakers.

Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line.

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