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Why 'Comcast' Spells 'Monopoly'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Comcast (CMCSA) is determined to become a new kind of monopolist, combining elements of the old AT&T (T), Fox (FOX) and Disney (DIS) empires.

The AT&T part is simple, and that is nearly in place.

By using its massive lobbying power in Washington -- it has contributed to nearly every senator overseeing its pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) -- Comcast first intends to become the dominant Internet pipe in the country.

This opportunity first presented itself almost 20 years ago, through a technology called Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS. Fiber overlays and fat cables designed for video let cable deliver far more broadband to customers than the phone industry's DSL technology, and that advantage has only grown with time.

This means that while cable could upgrade its plant at a measured pace, the phone companies have had to replace copper wiring at customers' homes to catch up. Systems like AT&T's U-Verse and Verizon's (VZ) FiOS are more competitive on sheer speed but are still trailing in market share.

Combine the subscriber counts of Comcast and Time Warner Cable during the first quarter of last year, and you get nearly as many broadband customers as Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink (CTL), which runs the old US West, combined. Another way of putting that is that Comcast will have more consumers buying its Internet than the entire Bell system.

The second leg of the plan, vertical integration, is also in place.

The purchase of NBCUniversal a year ago means that Comcast owns much of the programming going through its cable plant. When Comcast the cable company buys NBC Sports rights, or NBC network shows, or rights to show a movie owned by Universal, it is writing checks to itself.

This is what 21st Century Fox (FOXA) was after through the purchase of the BSkyB satellite system in Europe, an effort that was thwarted by scandals at News Corp. (NWS) newspapers. Having divested the newspapers, the company may try again. But they will still be behind.

The third leg, the Disney leg, is now beginning to happen. Having gotten the monopoly power of AT&T over broadband, and the monopoly power of Fox through integration, Comcast now wants the power Disney has to deliver complete experiences through a network of theme parks.

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