6 Senators Challenge Comcast-TWC Merger

**Editor’s Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting mergers in Q1 2015.**

As the nation’s two largest cable companies brace for a meeting with the U.S. Justice Department, six United States senators called on regulators to block the $45.2 billion merger between Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc.

In a letter Tuesday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Eric Holder, the senators, comprised mostly of Democrats, predicted the merger would result in “higher prices, fewer choices, and poorer quality services for Americans — inhibiting U.S. consumers’ ability to fully benefit from modern technologies and American businesses’ capacity to innovate and compete on a global scale.”

The senators addressed federal regulators just a day before the cable giants reportedly plan to meet with Justice Department officials in order to salvage the deal. The letter was signed by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vermont) and five Democrats including Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

“The concerns about the transaction center on the undeniable reality that the combined Comcast-TWC would be the overwhelming dominant cable and broadband Internet provider in the nation and control much of the programming that Americans watch,” the senators wrote.

The Wall Street Journal, reporting Sunday on the planned in-person meeting between the cable giants and Justice Department, said DOJ and FCC staff members remain concerned that the combined company would hold too much power in the broadband Internet market. People with knowledge of the review also told the newspaper that staff members are worried that the merged company would have an unfair competitive advantage against TV channel owners and new entrants that offer online video programming.

Last week, Bloomberg News reported that staff members at the Justice Department’s antitrust division were close to making a recommendation that the government block the merger. The report said antitrust division’s senior officials would decide whether to file a federal lawsuit seeking to impede the deal.  

“There is no basis for a lawsuit to block the transaction,” Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokeswoman, told Bloomberg News. The agreement “will result in significant consumer benefits — faster broadband speeds, access to a superior video experience, and more competition in business services resulting in billions of dollars of cost savings.”

Regulators likely will have the final word. After the Justice Department moved in 2011 to block AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, AT&T walked away from the merger.

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