When will it be over?
Posted On July 24, 2021
As the Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit that could force Comcast to sell its broadband network, the cable giant is grappling with the impact of an antitrust ruling.
The court issued a landmark ruling on Wednesday that will allow Comcast to compete directly with cable companies such as Charter Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., and will likely lead to more cable packages, as well as online and mobile video.
But the decision has not been fully applied to Comcast’s broadband network.
Comcast has been forced to lay off about 3,300 employees and cut tens of thousands of jobs in recent years as it tries to regain a foothold in the broadband market.
A case brought by two local unions is likely to drag on into the next year, while other issues, such as the issue of whether or not Comcast has the right to block content from competitors, remain in the hands of the court.
The justices in recent weeks have been weighing whether the antitrust law requires a cable provider to provide a superior level of service, said Thomas Zegar, a partner at the Washington law firm BakerHostetler.
It’s not clear what the court will decide on, and the implications of the ruling for the cable industry are unclear.
If the court upholds the antitrust case, Comcast could lose millions of dollars a year in fees that could be offset by a $5 billion revenue boost for customers.
The court’s decision would also allow Comcast’s competitors to use their own networks to compete with Comcast’s.
The cable industry has been facing a tough time in recent months.
Comcast lost a landmark case against AT&T Inc. in September.
AT&A accused Comcast of monopolizing the Internet, which it said had cost the company $45 billion a year.
The case was thrown out by a federal judge.
A month later, Comcast said it would give up its exclusive negotiating rights with Time Warner Cable Inc. for a $40 billion deal.
That deal expired last month.
The next month, AT&S said it was dropping its antitrust lawsuit against Comcast, and that it was giving up on its claim that it could stop competitors from building cable networks.
In a statement after the court’s ruling, Comcast President Mike Reed said: “We will aggressively defend our position on the merits of this case.”
The court has ruled that Comcast cannot block other cable companies from offering their services, but that will depend on how the court rules.
If the court sides with AT&Ts argument, Comcast would have to pay the $45 million it lost in the merger, and could lose an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue.
That revenue boost would be enough to allow Comcast and other companies to pay for new networks in areas with high concentrations of Comcast subscribers, like the Washington, D.C., area, and would help to fund its efforts to build broadband networks in other areas.
The company has not announced a timetable for when it plans to layoff or cut workers.