Top US Democrats cry death to Comcast-Time Warner hyper-gobble

Six senators write letter to FCC and DoJ warning about costs and competition

Six leading Democrats in the US have written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) asking them to reject the proposed $45.2bn acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast.

Senators Franken, Sanders, Markey, Wyden, Warren, and Blumenthal, warn that allowing the deal to go through would reduce competition, and increase costs for the average American. Combined, the two companies would have 57 per cent of the broadband market in the US, and 30 per cent of the cable market.

Representatives from both telcos are due in Washington DC this week for meetings with the FCC and DoJ in an effort to persuade them to green light the deal.

According to recent media reports, the Department of Justice's antitrust unit is building a case against the merger since it would be required to file a lawsuit to prevent the merger from going ahead.

The FCC, meanwhile, has not embarked on discussions over any conditions to be attached to the deal, leading to speculation that the regulator is either waiting for the DoJ's decision or has already made up its mind to block approval.

In the senators' two-page letter [PDF], they note: "We believe that Comcast-TWC's unmatched power in the telecommunications industry would lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and poorer quality services for Americans – inhibiting US consumers' ability to fully benefit from modern technologies and American businesses' capacity to innovate and compete on a global scale."

They also provide some precise scenarios. "With Comcast's ownership of NBC Universal and the numerous popular TV networks it controls, the combined company would have incentives and means by which to extract higher prices from other multichannel video programming distributors and prioritize its own programming over that of competitors.

"Comcast-TWC's monopoly power to dictate the terms of transactions with programmers will also force companies from across the country to reevaluate their business models, including the content they produce and the prices they charge."

They conclude by arguing that with netizens across the US having limited options in either their cable or internet access: "This is an industry that requires more competition, not less." ®

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