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Sen. Warren Slams Comcast in Competition Speech

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a potential vice presidential running mate to Hillary Clinton, laid into top cable operator Comcast and edge providers alike in a speech Wednesday criticizing consolidation on all fronts.

In a speech at a New America Open Markets event in Washington, D.C., Warren said competition was dying at the hands of consolidation and concentration in sector after sector and included the communications sector in her parade of horribles.

"Concentration threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy," she said.  

Related: Cable Ops Tell Senate They Can, Are Doing Better on Customer Service

She said that when companies gobble up their rivals, consumers "can get stuck with few or no alternatives. Prices go up, and quality suffers," adding: "Consider Comcast," which she proceeded to do. 

"Today, over half of all cable and internet subscribers in America are Comcast customers," she said. "And last year was Comcast’s best year in nearly a decade. But while big telecom giants have been consuming each other, consumers have been left out in the cold—facing little or no choice in service providers and paying through the nose for cable and internet service. Over a third of Americans who theoretically have access to high speed internet don’t actually subscribe because the price tag is too high," she asserted. "And the data are clear: Americans pay much more for cable and internet than their counterparts in other advanced countries and, in return, we get worse service."

But Warren spent even more time on the ability of dominant edge providers like Google, Apple and Amazon to "lock out" or "snuff out" smaller competitors.

She pointed out that while the Federal Trade Commission staff had concluded Google had favored its own content over its rivals, something the government has gone out of its way to prevent ISPs from having the ability to do, FTC commissioners "sided against" that staff conclusion. She did point out the European Commission has, by contrast, filed formal charges against the company for similar allegations.

She cited similar content-favoring allegations against Apple and Amazon. She conceded they had created disruptive technologies that changed the world and deserved to be highly profitable and successful. But she also said new entrants must be allowed to compete.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.