(Forbes) – Last month, President Obama released a statement directed at the FCC in favor of net neutrality. In it, he threw his support behind reclassifying Internet service as a utility—a move that has raised new concerns about the proposed $45 billion merger between media giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable. As the pressure ramps up on the FCC to rule on net neutrality, regulators there are also tasked with assessing the merger’s impact on the public interest while the Department of Justice reviews the deal on antitrust grounds. They will decide whether Comcast becomes the primary gatekeeper of the television and Internet businesses in America—a move that would pit them squarely against a gathering generational tide that’s pushing for the opposite.
To garner support, Comcast is touting the merger as a win for consumers. As part of an extensive lobbying campaign, advocates have cited the prospects of higher broadband speeds and faster implementation of new technologies. Comcast also argues that the merger wouldn’t result in any loss of competition, since it doesn’t compete with TWC in any market. Needless to say, however, Comcast and TWC have the most to gain if the deal goes through—along with Charter Communications, which has struck a deal with Comcast to buy a significant share of the subscribers the company is divesting to placate regulators.
But critics contend that the resulting company would wield enormous power over the nation’s high-speed Internet. Though consumers might have other options for pay-TV, cable companies are often the only available broadband providers. According to one government study, 74 percent of Americans have access to one provider at most that offers modern-standard 25Mbps service.