The US government is considering closing down more than a dozen cable TV networks in the face of the threat of a $50bn broadband internet and TV monopoly.RTE understands that several of the cable networks are being considered as part of a wider spectrum auction.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding a meeting on Monday to discuss whether to shut down a network in Colorado Springs and to consider the possibility of shutting down another in New York, according to an FCC spokeswoman.
A statement from the FCC says it is not yet ready to make any final decision about the spectrum auctions.
“FCC is considering the options and will make a decision in due course,” the FCC said in a statement.
“It is premature to provide further details about the meeting or the proposed spectrum auction until it has had a chance to review and comment on the public comments received from industry participants.”
It is not the first time the FCC has considered shutting down a TV network in the name of broadband internet.
In February, the FCC considered closing down Dish Network, the only network owned by Comcast and Verizon, because of its alleged role in a $45bn takeover of Time Warner Cable.
Dish Network has been in the news recently for its alleged plans to build an internet super-fast broadband network.
A spokesperson for Dish Networks said the network is in the midst of completing a $1bn merger with Time Warner.
“The Dish network is not in bankruptcy and will continue to operate under the same terms and conditions as we do today,” the spokesperson said in an email.
The FCC said it is also examining whether to close off DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite TV provider, after it was accused of violating anti-trust rules.
A direcTV spokesperson told RTE that it is “working hard to comply with our anti-discrimination obligations” and is working with the FCC to resolve the matter.
Last week, the Federal Communications Committee held a hearing on the impact of the consolidation of three US cable TV providers into a single company.
During the hearing, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the merger would not affect competition, but the companies were looking at ways to resolve some of the issues.
However, FCC commissioners have expressed concern that the merger could hurt consumers and could lead to higher costs for consumers and other US businesses.
Ajit Pai says he’s looking into a merger between three US TV networks that would “lead to more expensive and slower broadband.”
RTE’s source said there is a chance the FCC may shut down some of these cable networks but that the issue is far from settled.
A spokesperson from the Federal Trade Commission said it was “aware of the pending FCC hearing on consolidation” and would “respond” when appropriate.
RTE also understands that some of this week’s meetings were also held in the context of a meeting about broadband internet on Tuesday.
The US Government Accountability Office has recently begun a probe into the merger of Comcast, Time Warner and Charter into Time Warner, Comcast and Charter, the agency said.
(The AP is a division of Reuters news agency.)
“While the FCC will not be releasing the results of its review of the merger until after the FCC completes its public comment period, it is possible that the Commission will close off the remaining cable TV channels before the FCC makes its final decision,” the GAO said in its latest report.
In November, the GAo warned that the consolidation could result in higher prices for consumers.
While the Federal government may be considering closing off TV networks, the issue of internet competition is far more serious than that, and will only get worse if Comcast and Time Warner are able to obtain a new government subsidy.
This article was updated on 10 September 2018 to include comment from Comcast.