question of the day: What’s the worst we can expect from the FCC-approved takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast?

The FCC has approved the merger of U.S. cable company Comcast with media giant NBC Universal. As Minnesota senator Al Franken said, this:

pav[es] the way for a single enormous media conglomerate to obtain unprecedented control over the flow of information in our country…. This is an awful development for those of us who care about media consolidation. It will restrict your freedom of choice and raise your cable and Internet bills. And it could pave the way for even more media mergers and even less room for independent voices in the media.

Philadelphia Inquirer business journalist Jeff Gelles says:

The deal marrying the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider with one of the biggest names in broadcasting, cable TV, and movies will change the entertainment and communications landscape for years to come.

And its potential effect was nowhere more clear than in the extraordinary list of conditions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, both of which blessed the deal Tuesday after yearlong reviews.

Comcast was already the 800-pound gorilla in the cable and Internet markets. With a controlling stake in a joint venture that will keep the name “NBC Universal,” it will now be a gorilla wielding nunchakus.

Will consumers pay more for cable as a result? That was the prediction last fall of Northwestern University economist William P. Rogerson, who estimated that Comcast’s increased pricing power would boost bills $2.4 billion over the next nine years – about 3 percent, or an extra $2 a month on a $70-a-month cable bill.

Comcast hotly disputed Rogerson’s numbers, much as it countered warnings from other quarters. But there is scant reason to expect that the merger, even with its long list of conditions, will do anything to stem the tide of rising prices for cable and Internet access.

So: What’s the worst we can expect from the FCC-approved takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast? Any Comcast customers wanna share their experiences dealing with the company?

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