Franken to DOJ: Vet Comcast/TWC for Net Neutrality Concerns

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has opened a new front in his fight against the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal.

He has already taken to the airwaves to diss the deal, and asked the FCC to scrutinize the deal closely.

He has now written the Justice Department, which is already vetting the deal for antitrust issues, asking it to look at network neutrality issues in its review.

"I am very concerned that Comcast could use its clout in the broadband market to dictate the content consumers receive and the prices they pay, and these concerns are only intensified by Comcast's proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable," wrote Franken.

As a condition of its merger with NBCU, Comcast is subject to the network neutrality regs even though a court threw them out earlier this year. Comcast has said it also supports the FCC's effort to reinstate the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules using existing 706 authority over the timely rollout of broadband to the public.

Franken says he is concerned that those conditions expire in 2018 and what will happen after that, especially if Comcast and TWC merger.

Most observers expect the FCC to extend the conditions on Comcast beyond that date as a condition of the deal, which would then extend to the TWC systems, or alternately have new rules in place.

"The Comcast Time Warner Cable transaction will bring millions more Americans under the Open Internet rules as soon as our deal closes," said Sena Fitzmaurice, VP of government communications for Comcast. "We fully expect that the FCC will have in place Open Internet rules that will apply to all companies by the time our current condition from the NBCUniversal deal expires in 2018. That condition was always meant as a bridge to enforceable rules that would be applicable to all companies in the industry. Comcast has supported the Open Internet rules since they were first proposed and is the only company that is currently required to abide by them."

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.