Stop Mega Cable Coalition Forms to Fight Charter-TWC

Some opponents of the Charter-TWC merger—at least as currently constituted—including satellite and phone companies and public activist groups, have gotten together as the Stop Mega Cable Coalition.

The members of the coalition, which launched Jan. 21 include Dish, USTelecom, Public Knowledge, the Writers Guilds (East and West) and NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association.

They have dubbed the combination of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House "Mega Cable."

Fans of the Charter deal have pointed out that the AT&T-DirecTV deal resulted in an MVPD with more video subs than would a Charter-TWC, which would make it number three in video after AT&T and Comcast, but number two in broadband after Comcast.

But the coalition aims at two birds with one stone, identifying the "duopoly" of Comcast and a Charter-TWC-Bright House as having too much power and creating a broadband duopoly.

They say the FCC and DOJ "must solve for the harms" that power represents.

The coalition Web site hits on the hot-button issues of OTT and independent programmers, issues that were getting much attention in D.C. Thursday, including the revelation by FCC commissioner Clyburn that she expected the FCC to open an inquiry in the next few weeks on OTT and independent programmer access to new distribution channels.

"Mega Cable, along with Comcast, would control the vast majority – nearly 90 percent – of broadband homes in America," warns the site, "giving these companies the ability and incentive to coordinate their actions to control the future of the Internet and all of the innovative services that rely on a high-speed broadband connection."

"The Stop Mega Cable Coalition believes that kind of concentrated power risks serious harms.  Among other things, a duopoly threatens the future of over-the-top ('OTT') streaming services and independent programmers. And, if you thought cable prices and customer service were bad today, just wait until just two cable companies control the vast majority of the nation’s high-speed broadband market."

The FCC and Justice are currently vetting the proposed merger and OTT is one of the key issues if the FCC's data collections on the deal and focus on OTT competition generally and at least one OTT distributors' concerns are any gauges.

The OTT threat tag on the deal might come as a surprise to OTT powerhouse Netflix. Company CEO Reed Hastings just called the proposed deal a "tremendous positive." That was partly a reference to Charter's settlement-free peering policy.

“Charter is a different type of cable company—committed to creating American jobs, offering the most innovative products, delivering fast internet speeds, preserving an open internet and advancing online video friendly policies including no data caps and no modem fees," Charter said in response to the coalition's formation.

"It should come as no surprise that Dish and other parties seeking to use the regulatory review process to extract concessions are also engaging in tired PR tactics to further their self-interests. Their arguments against the pending transactions are baseless. The facts are that New Charter has received significant and broad support from leading OVD provider Netflix because of its online video friendly practices, independent programmers including Fuse Media and RFD-TV due to its commitment to diverse programming, national multicultural organizations like National Urban League, National Action Network and the League of United Latin American Citizens with whom it is collaborating to expand diversity and inclusion, and from the State of New York which recently approved the merger. These parties have taken a close and honest look at the benefits of these transactions and have all come to the same conclusion: they are in the public interest.”

If the Stop Mega Cable Coalition name sounds familiar it is because some of the same groups coalesced as the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition to push back on the Comcast/TWC deal, which ultimately was not consummated.

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.