Consumer Groups Slam AT&T-Time Warner Deal

Coinciding with the Hill hearing on the AT&T-Time Warner merger proposal, the Consumer Federation of America and Public Knowledge issued a report saying that an "oligarchy" of media firms "on steroids" is already overcharging consumers by $60 billion and approving the deal would expand that market abuse—AT&T is one of CFA's oligarchs, while Verizon, Comcast and Charter are the others.

They got that overcharge figure by identifying the typical household as ones with two cell phones, video and broadband service, saying that collectively the overcharges run about $45 a month ($540 a year) and multiplying it by the number of households.

The report was cited at that Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, where Public Knowledge president Gene Kimmelman was testifying.

"Rejecting the merger will be an important step in stopping the growth of the tight oligopoly on steroids, but there will still be a lot of work to do to control the abuse of market power by the dominant communication giants," said CFA director of research Mark Cooper in releasing the 216-page study (almost 250 with citations).

Neither NCTA: The Internet & Television Association, whose members include Comcast and Charter, or USTelecom, whose members include Verizon and AT&T, had any comment.

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.