Consumer Groups Ask FCC To Block Comcast-TWC Deal

WASHINGTON — Consumers Union and Common Cause have teamed up on a petition to deny Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

They called the deal an “unprecedented, monumental step in the direction of further consolidation of Big Media.”

Both are veteran critics of media mergers, so the opposition is not a big surprise.

In the 48-page filing, not including appendices, the groups said the deal would “harm competition, impede innovation by online video distributors, threaten innovation in equipment and platforms, and reduce the diversity of information sources and services to the public, all to the detriment of consumers and contrary to the public interest.”

“If this deal goes through, we can expect to be hit with more skyrocketing bills and worse service as Comcast gains even more control over what we see online and on TV," Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in announcing the petition. "The two companies have failed to demonstrate how the merger would serve the public interest. The benefits they claim are overstated, or elusive, or don't depend on a merger, and they are far outweighed by the harm.”

Comcast and TWC have argued that since there will be no overlap, a combined company would not reduce choices in either broadband or traditional video. But Consumers Union and Common Cause said that is “too narrow a view of how competition works and how it would be harmed … by the logic of that narrow view, Comcast should be free to acquire every cable and Internet company throughout the country in every market it does not already serve — amassing a nationwide monopoly.”

The deadline for petitions to deny is Aug. 25. Comcast and TWC will have an opportunity to respond to that and other petitions, if any, in reply comments.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.