The Real Victim Of The Comcast-Time Warner Merger? Digital Innovation

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[Commentary] For all the press attention directed at Comcast's recently announced bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, the merger's greatest long-term impact has been largely overlooked.

We tend to think of Comcast as a purveyor of cable TV first and foremost, and this may explain why media coverage of the merger tends to focus on the familiar dangers of letting a monopoly take control of an entertainment market with millions of customers, worth billions of dollars. While I don't want to undersell this concern, an equally pressing issue is that the merger places control over much of the country’s high-speed broadband with one media company.

In the short run, this keeps the cost of online access artificially high for US consumers, and inhibits improvements in service; in the long run, it could very well stifle digital innovation. As digital offerings move from entertainment to fundamental function, they become tools that cannot go down, or all hell breaks loose. An adaptive home security system that you can control from your smartphone is a great idea, unless you have to worry about exceeding your data cap -- or watch your access grind to a halt because everyone’s streaming the new House of Cards.

The companies that develop these applications know this too, and that uncertainty makes such innovation a bad investment. Mergers like this make it clear that we're still regulating broadband like entertainment, not like a utility, and this creates a bad environment for good design.

[Greco Design Director at Ziba, a design and innovation consultancy]

The Real Victim Of The Comcast-Time Warner Merger? Digital Innovation