WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer Watchdog has filed formal comments calling on the Federal Communications Commission to reject the proposed $45 billion merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable because the deal “is not at all in the public interest.”
“The consolidation of the largest cable television providers would create a media juggernaut that would stifle completion and hurt consumers who would ultimately pay higher prices for even worse service,” wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director in comments filed late Monday with the FCC.
The formal comments to the FCC highlighted Consumer Watchdog’s concern about Comcast’s potential for abuse since it has become a content provider with its acquisition of NBCUniversal. Simpson wrote:
“By controlling the means of distribution via cable TV or the Internet, Comcast will be able to unfairly promote its content over the content of other providers, limiting choice for consumers. With its deal with Netflix to expedite the popular service’s video, there are already troubling signs that Comcast is using its power unfairly to hurt content providers and limit consumers’ choice on the Internet. The Netflix deal also breaches commitments Comcast made when that merger was approved to maintain ’net neutrality. It is a clear that Comcast’s pledges are quickly ignored in the face of a drive to increase profits and that behavioral conditions do not work.”
Read Consumer Watchdog’s formal comments to the FCC here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/fcccomcastcomments082514.pdf
While the FCC must determine whether the deal is the public interest, the merger must also pass antitrust muster by the Department of Justice. Consumer Watchdog objected to the deal to Justice on antitrust grounds earlier this year. The prestigious American Antitrust Institute also says the deal should be blocked for antitrust reasons.
“The companies are trying to argue that they don’t directly compete in any cities. That is not the issue. Rather the concern is the share of the national cable TV market the behemoth would control, which would be substantial,” wrote Simpson. “The merged company would cover 16 of the largest 20 metropolitan regions for multichannel video programing distribution including the crown jewels of New York and Los Angeles.”
The proposed merger poses even greater problems with Internet access, Consumer Watchdog said. “In most of the markets they serve, Comcast and Time Warner Cable are the primary providers of high-speed broadband Internet access. Because in each of these markets the companies are effectively local monopolies, they are able to charge more for slower broadband service than is the case in other developed nations around the world,” wrote Simpson.
The comments to the FCC concluded:
“A final demonstration that the deal is not about improving service for consumers, is the outrageous $80 million “golden parachute” Time Warner Cable CEO Robert D. Marcus will receive if the deal is completed. The deal is about lining the pockets of shareholders and executives. It clearly is not in the public interest. Imposing behavioral conditions would be an insufficient remedy. Consumer Watchdog calls on you to reject the proposed merger.”
View the FCC’s Comcast-Time Warner Cable, MB Docket No. 14-57 and find other comments that have been filed here: http://www.fcc.gov/transaction/comcast-twc
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