Could Comcast find New Ways to Take Advantage of Customers
So, even if Comcast wants AOL, there is no way the Department of Justice should let them have any part of the deal, even if Google is involved. Comcast has been screwing its customers almost since its inception. It is part of the reason that broadband penetration in the U.S. is so low. The first thing they would do with its newly found AOL customer base would be to try and push them into a $70 / month bill for internet access. That is still obscene. All they would do is push the now marginalized dial-up community completely off the net. Closing this avenue is bad for many reasons, none the least of which is that the people on dial-up today are mostly rural or poor urban familes who may use the service mostly for communicating with far away relatives. Everyone understands that Comcast is against equal opportunity web access, preferring instead to limit the internet to the rich and well-connected. The proof of this is how aggressively they are moving to try to block even low speed blanked broadband in several American cities.
I don't believe that this is good for consumers, or the internet. While SBC is spending massive amounts of money to try and catch up in the TV over IP market, its broadband base is dwindling and Comcast's is steadily increasing. AOL has some very good, family friendly content that appeals to some segments of consumer. Comcast caters to a different audience. Perhaps Comcast wants to get a piece of this audience, but this by definition is abuse of market power. Comcast has a monopoly on the broadband industry. They are setting the tone.
Another side of this is why Time Warner is even interested in selling. AOL has the potential for a huge resurgence behind new media, new portal features, and its AIM brand. AOL could use a restructuring similar to the one Microsoft just went through. It seems that Google is moving to aggressively shore up one of its biggest income generators against the possibility of anyone else getting them. This could mean making a deal with a decidedly evil company like Comcast, whose mission seems to be the exact opposite of Google's. Or perhaps it could begin a battle between Google, or it could be attrition. Comcast has to know that Google is going to put them out of business. Perhaps not right now, but in the near future it will be over for Comcast. I can only speculate, but if I were Time Warner, I would entertain offers, but ultimately I'd hold on to AOL.