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Event # 257: THE TICKING CLOCK
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This decision was heralded by the USA's number one and two cable operators, AT&T Broadband and AOL Time Warner, as a long overdue victory. Both companies had been fighting these regulations for years in the courts and legislatures of the country.
Meanwhile, new FCC Chairman Michael Powell is known to be sympathetic to claims of the cable and satellite companies, having stated that the regulations were too stringent, and is expected to have the FCC rewrite the rules within months.
Consumer groups are understandably up in arms about the court's ruling, saying that it allows for further concentration of an already non-competitive industry with limited subscriber choices and prices that have risen far faster than inflation These groups are also concerned that increased deregulation of the cable space, just as new digital technologies are being deployed to control the "Home Gateway," will allow the mega-corporations to "fence off" the type and quantity of digital content available to their users --- a practice for which AOL Time Warner has always shown a marked propensity.
Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the Washington office of Consumers Union, told the New York Times on Friday: "This is a big victory for cable monopolies and a devastating blow for consumers. The monopoly power of cable companies will be further unleashed. It will send shivers through broadcasting and independent content producers."
This ruling, in other words, has effectively let the 800-pound gorillas out of the bag in the strangest constitutional interpretation of Free Speech in recent memory. The very purpose of the FCC regulations was to allow for more diversity of broadcasting content and ensure that independent content producers had, at the very least, the opportunity of distributing their work to consumers. Without the caps, media giants who are also cable operators are free to fence consumers inside a more restricted universe of ideas.
If you're not chilled yet, you should be.
You don't mind that much, because we still give you a cut of the profits...and guess what, we're throwing in the snowcone franchise at your stand, too. Now all of our customers can get the very same offerings.
It's just that that new guy trying to move into town won't have a snowcone's chance of wooing anybody around here away. And remember, no matter how much your unruly customers might ask, we only offer snowcones in two flavors. If they don't like it, tough noogies!
Let us bear in mind, again, that a monopoly is an organization which holds control over its market because it enjoys barriers to entry into that market which exclude competition. If a company or a small group of companies with mutual holdings exclude entry into production and distribution, they monopolize the market and have the power to fix prices...and they exclude competition.
You should be starting to feel the temperature drop by now.
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