Media Mergers and Net Neutrality: What does this mean for you?

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This week marks historic developments in internet evolution. The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the Obama Administration's net neutrality rules took effect Monday, almost six months after the vote to role it back. And on the heels of that repeal a federal judge ruled in favor of AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. What exactly was repealed? The rules, enacted in 2015 ensured that internet service providers must treat all content the same. A provider could not speed up access to specific websites or applications; in turn this prevents them from giving their own content the upper hand and putting their competition at a disadvantage. Why this all matters? The wave of U.S media mergers and consolidation is now more relevant than ever. This recent ruling could ignite a deal making push in potential partners like, T-Mobile and Sprint, 21st Century Fox and Disney, Verizon and CBS. Merging of these media powerhouses leaves little room for competition from smaller companies and the boost they are receiving from the end of net neutrality might be just enough to monopolize the market. For example, AT&T customers can expect increased services and bundles, but with this expansion they can also expect to see a hike in prices. As is the case with most mergers, competition is eliminated and prices elevate. Companies with so many services under one roof can gain elevated media control without net neutrality rules to hinder them, giving customers increased access to their content while elbowing out the competition. Now what? Fear not, there is still hope for the Net Neutrality debate to continue. Many state governments are exploring their own net neutrality legislation and the House can still pass a resolution that was brought forward in the Senate to use the Congressional Review Act.

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