Last week was a difficult week for antitrust and consumer rights advocates. On Monday, the net neutrality rules (the ones that kept internet service providers from acting as gatekeepers of the internet) officially went off the books. (We are, of course, fighting to bring them back.) The next day, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a ruling permitting the AT&T/Time Warner mega-merger to proceed, in a lawsuit brought on by the Department of Justice. This ruling was more troubling news for consumers, as well as for the future of online competition.
Today, Consumer Federation of America, in collaboration with Public Knowledge, published a paper explaining why the government’s case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger is both warranted and consistent with past enforcement practices. The paper also demonstrates the necessity of the case to prevent possible coordination among dominant firms that would likely thwart the development and expansion of innovative online video platforms as well as cheaper alternatives to traditional cable and satellite services.
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Leon denied AT&T's request for certain documents and testimony in its defense against the Department of Justice's charge that its proposed acquisition of Time Warner violates antitrust laws. AT&T has argued that it is subject to "selective enforcement," that is, that the DOJ's motivation in bringing the case is primarily political, and motivated by President Trump's well-known dislike of CNN, a Time Warner property. The DOJ rejects this contention, maintaining that the DOJ's Antitrust Division alone decided to bring this case.
Today, Walt Disney Co. announced a deal to acquire significant programming assets from 21st Century Fox Inc. The deal would unite two substantial content companies and mark the second media mega-merger to face antitrust scrutiny next year. Public Knowledge contends that this merger may pose harms to competition and consumers by further consolidating must-have programming assets and major motion picture studios, and ultimately leading to consumers paying higher prices for video content.
Today, Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman submitted a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition, and Consumer Rights. His statement in the December 13 hearing on “The Consumer Welfare Standard in Antitrust: Outdated or a Harbor in a Sea of Doubt?” contends we need more than antitrust law to promote market competition that benefits consumers.