There’s some pretty rapid consolidation going on at the top of the corporate world right now; spying the opportunity to achieve vertical integration, Disney and Comcast are both bidding on entertainment giant 21st Century Fox.
Disney has won antitrust permission to bid on Fox, offering a stock-based $52.4bn deal…
Are you asleep yet?
Here’s why all these tiresome corporate shennanigans actually matter.
Who buys who, and who cares?
If Comcast buys 21st Century Fox they will control both the production of movies, TV shows and other content, and its distribution.
Worst case scenario: Comcast beats Disney and winds up owning Fox. At the same time, the final fight against the repeal of net neutrality fails and a packed FCC headed by the most unpopular FCC head ever forces a corporations-first version of the internet down the throats of the 83% of Americans who don’t want one.
What happens then?
We face the possibility of another massive, vertically integrated monopoly dominating the internet.
Corporations are buying the internet out from underneath us
Sure. AT&T already did this. When it merged with Time Warner, it became a single giant megacorporation with revenues of more than $31 billion in 2017. (Despite these numbers, AT&T still cranked up customers’ fees to generate an additional $800m in revenue before the deal went ahead.)
That corporation (we need a new word. Behemoth? Juggernaut? Leviathan?) now controls not just an ISP, but AT&T’s enormous DirectTV ISP network; not just a media company, but Time Warner’s media company empire, including HBO, TNT, CNN, and Warner Brothers.
In other words, it’s now in a position to tell you what news you can watch, what TV you can watch, what movies you can watch. If it doesn’t like your choices it can slow your connection to rivals or even stop you accessing them altogether.
It’s open season
With no net neutrality, that’s not against the law.
Comcast will be the same.
Disney and Comcast both say they want a new company, to be called with a crushing access of trendy corporo-minimalism ‘New Fox’ (better than ‘Tronc,’ though, right?). New Fox will own Fox News, Fox Sports, the Big Ten Network, and Fox Deportes.
But, if Comcast buys Fox they’ll have 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox21 TV studios, Fox Searchlight, Fox 2000 Pictures, the Universal family of companies, Sky, Star, Hulu, Focus, MSNBC, Fandango, NBC…
In other words, they too will be in a position to tell their ‘customers’ what they may and may not see, hear and do on the internet – and a strong financial incentive to do so. (Will they do it? Of course – they already do it.)
You can always get internet elsewhere… right?
And we’re not going to have a hell of a lot of choice about it. The standard the FCC uses for ‘broadband,’ ie, ‘internet you can actually use,’ is 25Mbps. At that speed, most Americans have choice of two or fewer providers.
In fact, 70% of Americans have a Hobson’s choice of 25Mbps providers: take it or leave it. (The other 30% are still waiting for a deal that good.)
So if you don’t like it…
Enjoy serfing the web, folks.
What can we do?
Dealing with the tendency to monopoly of corporate capital is a little bit outside the scope of this post, but if you think this picture stinks (like I do), there are still some options available to you.
One is to pick up the phone and get on the case of your elected representatives. (We wrote a post about how to do that here.)
And the other is to get a VPN. VPNs protect you from ISP throttling the same way they protect you from spying and other threats: if your ISP can’t tell the destination of your data, they can’t throttle it.
I’d recommend both!