NEWYORK (TheStreet) - As federal regulators scrutinize a $45.2 billion merger between Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) as well as a $48.5 billion dollar deal combining DirecTV (DTV) with AT&T (T), small businesses are telling politicians that both transactions are likely to be a drag on start-up companies and local communities.
At a "field" hearing earlier this week in Burlington, Vermont, Senator Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch, both from the Green Mountain state, gave local resident who may not easily make the trip to Washington a chance to weigh-in on the thorny topic 'net neutrality.'
For the uninitiated, net neutrality argues that the owner of a broadband pipe, Comcast for instance, can't discriminate among its users, i.e. favoring a deep-pocketed user such as 21st Century Fox (FOXA), which might able to pay more for a 'high-speed land' than Mom or Pop Start-up. The hearing, entitled, "Preserving an Open Internet: Rules to Promote Competition and Protect Main Street Consumers," focused on how best to address equal access to the Internet for both large corporations and small businesses.
When Netflix signed a direct access deal with Comcast to make sure it's mounds of video efficiently move to their end users, critics argued that the agreement looked and smelled like a violation of net neutrality though both sides denied. The FCC as well said the deal was perfectly lega.
The Vermont hearing comes weeks after Leahy and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2014, a bill that commands the Federal Communications Commission to ban preferential treatment and paid prioritization deals between broadband and content providers. If the FCC were to authorize paid prioritization deals, the internet could morph into a two-tier system that would prevent consumers from accessing content equally.