Fortunately for consumers, the proposed merger of media conglomerates Comcast and Time Warner has been canceled. It seems that the FCC wasn’t going to approve the merger due to antitrust concerns. Given that both companies have terrible records for things like consumer protection, this is a win for basically everyone. The merger would have given the new company a virtual monopoly over large swathes of the US, which means that consumers could have expected higher prices for less service.
The FCC finally approved net neutrality by voting to treat the Internet as a public utility after years of protests and activism. In practice, not much should change for users, but this decision allows the FCC to prevent internet service providers from controlling how users use the Internet and what they see. Neutrality (or at least a close approximation) has been how the Internet has largely operated anyway, but this potentially codifies the principle into federal regulations. While some have argued against it, net neutrality is popular with many different groups. It helps keep the internet accessible to all content providers. It seems like it should be hard to argue that the Internet is not a utility, since most ISPs operate as monopolies or near-monopolies in many areas, and the Internet is also now one of the most, if not the most, important way that many people access information. It is not much different from television or telephone, which are already seen as utilities. With this ruling, people now need to watch the regulators to prevent the industry from taking control of any oversight.
Earlier today, the FCC voted to end the sports blackout rule that prevented professional sports games from being broadcast locally if not enough tickets were sold. The vote was unanimous, which is not surprising given how unpopular this rule is with basically everyone who doesn’t own a team. Reportedly, this does not actually end the blackouts, just the FCC rule that causes it. Leagues could still black out games, but they would at least have to admit that they are the ones responsible and not use the FCC to deflect criticism away from themselves. From now on, game blackouts can only be blamed on the leagues and not the government.