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Congressional, Activist Critics Challenge Comcast, AT&T Acquisitions

By Josh Long
May 22, 2014 - News
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“If Comcast’s proposed acquisition of TWC were approved, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s broadband subscribers would be under Comcast’s thumb," Franken wrote in a letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, asking whether Comcast would abide by its existing obligations beyond 2018.

Comcast declined to comment.

The heat isn’t just coming down on Comcast. AT&T’s recently announced agreement to acquire DirecTV also is expected to endure heavy regulatory scrutiny at the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice.

Free Press, an activist group, is urging consumers to oppose a merger that it characterized as “the dumbest, most wasteful deal ever (at least since Comcast-Time Warner Cable)."

“These two takeovers are a perfect illustration of everything that’s wrong with America’s telecommunications market," wrote S. Derek Turner, who oversees Free Press’ research and policy analysis efforts in Washington, in a May 19 blog. “Case in point: For the total price of these two mega-deals, AT&T and Comcast could collectively deploy super-fast gigabit-fiber broadband service to every single home in America."

The two monster deals being reviewed simultaneously could actually work to the benefit of AT&T and Comcast, according to at least one lawyer who previously worked as an antitrust reviewer at the Federal Trade Commission.

“Antitrust regulators could be looking at the Comcast deal as creating a Goliath that would be competing against a bunch of Davids," Amanda L. Wait, a partner at Hunton & Williams, told The New York Times. “The AT&T/DirecTV merger changes that dynamic. Post-merger, it would look more like a Goliath. That could level the playing field, or at least create one strong competitor that could challenge Comcast’s position."

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