The FCC issued a formal public notice on Thursday seeking comment on Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, signaling about six months until it reaches a decision on whether to green light the transaction.
Comments in favor or against the merger are due on Aug. 25; responses to those comments are due on Sept. 23; and replies to those responses are due on Oct. 8.
The FCC is also seeking comments on a related transaction in which Charter Communications will acquire 1.4 million Time Warner Cable subscribers. Another 2.5 million Comcast subscribers will become part of a spinoff company controlled by Charter.
The FCC has traditionally worked in a 180-day time frame to review mergers once it issues a public notice, although that schedule is an informal goal.
Comcast said that it expects to expand its subscriber base by about 7 million customers, reaching less than 30% of the multichannel market.
The Department of Justice must approve the transaction, but its review process plays out in secret, unlike the FCC. While Comcast competitors can meet with Justice Department attorneys in private to weigh in on the proposed merger, FCC meetings must be disclosed. That was the case earlier this week, when Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen and other execs met with FCC officials to voice their opposition to the Comcast-TWC transaction.
“We look forward to a thorough, fact-and-data based comment and review process on questions that are specifically related to the issues raised by these transactions,” Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said. “Our filings have shown that considerable consumer benefits occur because of this transaction and there’s no diminishment in competition. Of course, we fully expect robust debate, and that’s what the FCC process is for. But we believe that once all the facts are on the record, it will show the significant advantages that bringing these companies together will bring.”