back to article Dinosaurs permitted to mate: But what does AT&T Time merger mean for antitrust – and you?

Across political divides in the United States there's a common appetite for reining in the country's plutocratic corporate overlords. The country that reveres Mom 'n' Pop businesses is wary when giant businesses combine. But the landmark decision in a US District Court permitting two legacy businesses to merge indicates how hard …

  1. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

    No, it doesn't...

    It maximises corporate welfare...

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

      Must have been a typo.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

        Theory and reality are often two very different things (i.e. in theory the US approach maximises consumer welfare; in reality the US approach maximises corporate welfare)...

        1. Giovani Tapini

          Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

          It means a short term "introductory offers" made to consumers overrides any long term detriment to the consumer and associated markets.

          "Populist" also means playing on undefined fears, rumour, and prejudice rather than moral, economic, or data driven...

          All totally the American way...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

          in reality the US approach maximises corporate welfare

          Corporate welfare maybe, but not investor welfare. The history of both companies and the sectors involved show largely negative benefits from M&A, that certainly does little for consumers, but it does even less for investors.

          At least in this instance the companies are merging, which should mean little in the way of acquisition goodwill that the customers end up paying for.

          1. fishman

            Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

            "Corporate welfare maybe, but not investor welfare."

            If corporations were run to maximize investor value executive pay and benefits would be dramatically slashed.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

      @malle-herbert

      It may do that as well, but "consumer welfare" is a technical term:

      https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=3177

      ...which really means lower prices. The prevailing theory in US antitrust is that if prices are lower, then everyone's a happy bunny.

      1. cyberdemon
        Devil

        Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

        @Andrew: Even with that simplistic definition of Consumer Welfare, it does not necessarily follow that prices will be lower under a monopoly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

          it does not necessarily follow that prices will be lower under a monopoly.

          They rarely are unless the monopoly is heavily and competently regulated.

          But in this case there's no new monopoly. AT&T and TW are largely in different businesses, and any local monopoly (eg on network or telco assets) already exists and would be unchanged. TW do add to existing AT&T content ownership, but not sufficient to make them any new form of monopoly in content.

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

            > AT&T and TW are largely in different businesses, and any local monopoly (eg on network or telco assets) already exists and would be unchanged

            No, they're not. For example, my "choice" in local ISPs is AT&T... or Time Warner (Spectrum)

            Hm. I wonder how the merger will affect me?

          2. J. Cook Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

            ... I've been in colos where AT&T *and* TIme-Warner both had their own circuits piped in. (as in, they owned the copper cable going in and their techs put it their, not just leasing it from the local telco)

            I expect the judge in this case has an untracable bank account that has suddenly grown *much* larger...

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: "The US approach maximises consumer welfare"

          @Andrew: Even with that simplistic definition of Consumer Welfare, it does not necessarily follow that prices will be lower under a monopoly.

          Who claimed otherwise?

          Andrew's point is that the official guiding principle of US antitrust efforts is "consumer welfare", which in this case is a term of art with a specific definition. As he wrote in the article, European antitrust is based on a different official guiding principle.

          And this official guiding principle is one reason for the historical lack, relatively speaking, of antitrust activity in the US. That's what he was writing about in that section of the article. He did not claim that US antitrust activity is necessarily of actual benefit to its citizenry.

          Why so many readers have trouble comprehending this rather simple point is beyond me.

          Sorry, wait - I just remembered this is an Internet forum, where thinking first is considered gauche. Never mind.

  2. boltar Silver badge

    What does it mean to me?

    Nothing, I live in the UK (this is still a UK based site isn't it?) and couldn't care less.

    1. Just Enough

      Re: What does it mean to me?

      And yet here you are. Reading and commenting.

      Aside from that, it's very silly to assume that changes in the IT landscape in the US have no effect on the UK. It being the information age where national boundaries have less and less significance.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: What does it mean to me?

        This is much bigger deal in the US than (say) in the UK, because many USizens don't have an effective choice of ISP. If I don't like the deal that my UK ISP offers me, whether on straight price/performance or for other services that may be bundled with it, it's simple to change to another (albeit the actual signal will probably be carried over the same copper/fibre, probably owned by BT). For reasons partly historical and partly geographical, this isn't as straightforward in much of the US.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What does it mean to me?

          This is much bigger deal in the US than (say) in the UK, because many USizens don't have an effective choice of ISP.

          How do they have less choice as a result of this, then? TW aren't active materially (if at all) in ISP and telco activity.

          1. Alphebatical

            Re: What does it mean to me?

            > TW aren't active materially (if at all) in ISP and telco activity.

            Time Warner Cable was spun off well before this deal was even thought of(I don't think AT&T was even in the TV market yet). I worked for them (indirectly) for a brief time and they were very clear during training that we were to always use the company's full name because of this.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: What does it mean to me?

        "Aside from that, it's very silly to assume that changes in the IT landscape in the US have no effect on the UK"

        Its just 2 US corps merging, neither of which have a significant broadband or any other type of presense IT or otherwise in the UK. Who cares?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: What does it mean to me?

          "Its just 2 US corps merging, neither of which have a significant broadband or any other type of presense IT or otherwise in the UK. Who cares?"

          I think you mean two US based global corporations who have their fingers in many pies around the world.

          "The UK is the headquarters for AT&T EMEA. AT&T serves over 57% of UK FTSE 100 companies.

          AT&T offers a comprehensive service portfolio to clients - helping them put their business in motion across a nationwide infrastructure. AT&T has three state-of-the-art Internet Data Centers (Birmingham and London x 2) and a nationwide network of MPLS enabled POP's. The UK is also the AT&T Center for Global Disaster Recovery operations. "

          "Time Warner's UK businesses - AOL UK; IPC Media; TIME and Fortune magazines; Turner Broadcasting; and Warner Bros."

    2. Hero Protagonist

      Re: What does it mean to me?

      “this is still a UK based site isn't it?”

      You’re just now noticing that the content of this site is not exclusively UK focused?

    3. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: What does it mean to me?

      this is still a UK based site isn't it?

      You may not have noticed it, but El Reg is multinational. It has journalists in the UK, US and Australia (and possibly more countries than that, because I don't pay much attention to the bylines). The stuff it covers is also multinational, with the biggest players being in the US, then probably China, followed by Japan and Korea, with the UK somewhere below them.

      You also appear never to have heard the aphorism "When the US sneezes the whole world catches a cold." The events covered by this article may not affect you directly but they will eventually affect you indirectly. If only because our fucktard of a PM uses the renowned gambit of "monkey see, monkey do."

      Perhaps you would like to vote for the UK exiting the rest of the world so that events outside the UK will have no effect upon you.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What does it mean to me?

      "Nothing, I live in the UK (this is still a UK based site isn't it?) and couldn't care less."

      Virgin Media - US owned

      Sky - Soon to be US owned.

      So, how US companies act is relevant.

  3. earl grey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    what does this mean to the consumer?

    Back in the barrel.

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