If there were any lingering doubts that the Federal Communications Commission's staff and leadership wanted to kill Comcast Corp.'s $45 billion takeover of its second-largest not-quite-rival,  FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler set them to rest this morning - within minutes of Comcast's announcement that its deal with Time Warner and a related transaction with Charter Communications "have been terminated."

Comcast and Time Warner Cable's decision to end Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable is in the best interests of consumers. The proposed transaction would have created a company with the most broadband and the video subscribers in the nation alongside the ownership of significant programming interests.

Today, an online video market is emerging that offers new business models and greater consumer choice. The proposed merger would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation, including to the ability of online video providers to reach and serve consumers.

Eric Holder, in one of his last acts as attorney general, similarly heralded the decision while Wheeler cited the FCC's "close working relationship" with Justice's antitrust division during the deal's 14-month review. He said the "collaboration provided both agencies with a deeper understanding of the important issues of innovation and competition that the proposed transaction raised."

Wheeler, you may recall, is the former telecom lobbyist whose appointment to run the FCC was famously likened by HBO's John Oliver to hiring a wild dingo as a babysitter. Once again, Wheeler has disproved the comedian's line.

My colleague Bob Fernandez's review of the deal's collapse is here, and the New York Times' Jonathan Mahler has a fine post mortem here focused on the point that the proposed expansion of Comcast's domination over broadband probably was key to dooming the deal. But so was what economists call the issue of "monopsony," a lesser-known cousin to monopoly: when a single company dominates a market as a buyer rather than as a seller.

Comcast already throws its weight around both as an owner of NBCUniversal content and as a owner of key regional sports networks, such as Philadelphia's SportsNet. Time Warner's behavior in its local sports markets is also troubling - just ask any of Southern California's Dodgers fans who now face another season without television access to their home team.

Should the Justice Department and FCC's move to block this deal have surprised anyone? The bigger surprise should be that so many people thought the deal would simply get regulators' all-too-frequent wink and nod.
Early in its term, the Obama administration improved consumer protection directly with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though a little slower in coming together, its recent moves to block anti-competitive telecom mergers and impose Title II oversight over broadband Internet providers to protect the principle of net neutrality are a welcome addition to that record.

The FCC's Wheeler clearly merits much of the credit.  In February 2014, I wrote about reasons regulators should block the Comcast-TWC deal despite Comcast exec David L. Cohen's argument that there would be no harm because cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner didn't actually compete with each either. As I wrote then, that argument was an ironic illustration of the problem: Cable companies, largely deregulated over the last two decades, essentially divvy up the market. They're monopoly or duopoly providers virtually everywhere they do business.

Back then - before Wheeler showed he was no dingo on the net neutrality issue - I suggested a bit wistfully that "maybe this time, the FCC will grow a little more spine."

Wheeler did even better. He showed his teeth, but on behalf of customers, not to protect the cable companies he once represented.

Twice now, Wheeler has impressively dodged the lure of the crony capitalism that often seems to infect Washington, statehouses and city halls - no matter which party runs them - when it comes to regulating big, powerful and well-connected companies like Comcast and Time Warner, though he's been helped by the fact that cable companies have thrown their weight around for years against content owners and Internet companies, some of them behemoths in their own right but all heavily reliant for their business on cable companies' networks. The crony-capitalism problem has been repeatedly illustrated in Comcast's relationship with its home town, though there are signs Mayor Nutter may be resisting it better than his predecessors.

Instead, Wheeler showed how aggressive, enforcement of antitrust laws and telecommunications laws can empower regulators to protect the public's interests. Let's hope Nutter and City Council follow his lead.