TV, Internet connections, and telephone service can be acquired from what seems like only a handful of companies these days, and it’s no wonder when we’re seeing mergers left and right, giving consumers fewer options and making the competitive field a bit strange and uncomfortable. AT&T has its sights on DirecTV (News - Alert); Comcast and TWC are looking to merge; now throw in some regulations and you have a very convoluted, very confusing time for communications in general.
DirecTV competes with AT&T (News - Alert) for TV viewers, and in this situation it helps keep prices down. Eliminating this market could pave the way to higher bills. Mergers are just the nature of the beast of business, and the deals are made with economic efficiency, technological change and financial benefits in mind. Consumers, however, have a right to ask what the changes mean for them, and Washington is duty-bound to weigh the threat to a competitive market.
For telecom, regulation and mergers are the biggest battles that must be fought. Of course, there is also the talk of transitioning to an all-IP network that has been heavily debated. With traditional legacy networks, expansion leads to complexity, which then leads to reduced network quality and increased ancillary costs in transmission, equipment rooms, power consumption and human resources. Many seem to misunderstand that this issue is not a left versus right one politically, but rather a future versus past argument on the human level.
Telecom regulation, as it stands, is putting the kibosh on any development that could be made in the shift to an all-IP network. Putting an end to telecom regulations and circuit switched PSTN will, it is assumed, put to rest the very dated Communication Act of 1934, as well as updates and corresponding regulations. This is all tied into the Title II regulations, one of the biggest fights telecom is up against.
In 2010, the FCC (News - Alert) explored the option of reclassifying ISPs under Title II by seeking comments and opinions from the public, but the inquiry didn’t lead to any changes. Now, the FCC will propose strong Title II regulation, saying “the Internet must be fast, fair, and open.”
There's a lot of important information we don't have yet about how Title II will be implemented, but it remains a contest for companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon (News - Alert), who are sure to put up a fight to remove the lines drawn in the sand by the FCC.