EDITORIAL: Consumers getting raw deal with media mergers, end of net neutrality

SHARE EDITORIAL: Consumers getting raw deal with media mergers, end of net neutrality
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Traffic moves past the Time Warner Center in New York City. AT&T can move forward with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. | Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

So much for a free and open internet.

We’re not quite there yet. But we’re getting dangerously close with this one-two punch: the $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner, plus the official end of “net neutrality.”

The mega-merger opens the door for more corporate behemoths to join forces, to the likely detriment of you, their paying customers.

EDITORIAL

The Justice Department, however, couldn’t persuade a federal judge on Tuesday to kill the deal. Its argument that the merger would stifle competition for cable and satellite TV services and potentially drive up prices for content fell on deaf ears.

Expect more mega-deals and consolidations, with the worst-case scenario of higher prices and blocked websites made more likely now with the end of net neutrality.

Those Federal Communications Commission rules kept the internet open as a town square of competing ideas and diverse voices. Internet providers couldn’t cherry-pick what sites customers could visit, or slow down certain sites owned by rivals.

Now they can.

And with those rules gone, AT&T/Time Warner can, say, charge cable companies a higher price for access to “Game of Thrones” (produced by HBO, which is owned by Time Warner) while giving a price break to DirecTV (owned by AT&T).

See where this is going? Sure, customers could get a deal by ditching cable. But what happens when satellite TV prices inevitably go up on all those newly-captive customers?

Consumers can fight back, though. Call your member of Congress and urge him or her to support the push to force a vote on a bill to protect net neutrality, which the Senate already has approved.

Here in Illinois, there’s HB 4819, a bill to require internet service providers that do business with state agencies to honor net neutrality for all Illinois customers. ISPs would also have to disclose if they engage in blocking, paid prioritization or slowing down of particular internet sites. Washington and Oregon already have such laws, and other states are considering them.

The Illinois bill is still waiting for a full House vote, according to a spokesman for state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), its chief sponsor.

A phone call here would help, too.

Because people, not corporations, should control their town square.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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