Court lifts FCC limits on cable ownership

Look out, here comes Comcast. The cable giant's ambitions have long been stymied by a 1993 FCC rule that limited any one cable company's business to 30 percent of the U.

Look out, here comes Comcast. The cable giant's ambitions have long been stymied by a 1993 FCC rule that limited any one cable company's business to 30 percent of the U.S. market. Friday, the D.C. Circuit threw out that rule as "arbitrary and capricious" (the standard for overturning an agency rule), clearing the way for No. 1 Comcast to expand mightily, The Washington Post reports. The Circuit Court agreed with Comcast that the company faces competition from satellite TV providers, as well as other cable companies, so the limits aren't needed. Comcast was pleased: "This important decision affirms that rules must reflect the changing realities of the dynamic video marketplace where today consumers have more choice in video providers and channels than ever before." Free Press was not: "Today, consumers experience perpetual price hikes by large operators that already have market dominating purchasing power to decide the fate of new channels. The promises of lower prices through competition from satellite and telecom companies in the video business have never been realized." But here's my question: Far from eliminating monopolies, the rule has carved up the country into little mini-monopolies with Time Warner and Comcast basically ceding huge parts of the country to the other. Could lifing the rule mean that all TV/Internet providers will compete in all areas? That the regional TV monopoly comes to an end? Of course, it seems likely that monopolies will continue, especially since a huge industry consolidation could ensue, but with the gates opened, the companies would also be more susceptible to antitrust lawsuits.