Comcast-TW Cable Opposition Heats Up Even With Another FCC Delay

Comcast Time Warner Merger

Opponents of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger are prepping for the next round of verbal brawling on Tuesday, the FCC’s deadline for more comments regarding the pros and cons of the $45 billion deal.

Separately, the FCC on Monday implemented another delay of the time clock governing the schedule of its review. The commission said that FCC recently discovered some 31,000 Comcast-TW Cable documents that would not be delivered to the commission until Dec. 30 because of a “vendor delay.” Earlier, 7,000 documents arrived Dec. 9-10 after being withheld because Comcast-TW Cable believed they were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Given the data dump, the FCC opted to stop the 180-day time clock, a guiding principle designed to prevent the deal review process from dragging on infinitely, to give staff time to review the documents. With the new Jan. 12 restart date, the FCC is expected to hold its vote on the proposed merger by the end of March.

The FCC did not change the Dec. 23 deadline for reply comments to the lengthy response to earlier comments that Comcast filed with the commission on Sept. 24. That filing was noted for its aggressive stance against critics of the deal.

Satcaster Dish Network used that against Comcast in its reply comment filed Tuesday. Dish, a company known for its pugnacious approach to dealmaking, has been one of the most vocal industry opponents of the union of the nation’s two largest cable operators.

It speaks volumes about the current concerns about the health of traditional pay TV providers that Dish’s 40-plus page reply comment focuses largely on the impact of a combined Comcast-TW Cable on the broadband market. Dish is in the midst of assembling an over-the-top channel package to be distributed via broadband. The filing spells out numerous ways that it fears Comcast-TW Cable could interfere with or squash the nascent service because of its big footprint in broadcast.

Dish’s filing calls Comcast’s discussion of arguments made by merger opponents “hectoring, high-handed, strident, shrill… It gives us a view into the post-merger world that the Applicants will create if the commission approves this transaction. … The arrogant tone and sense of entitlement on display provide useful insight into how the combined company will treat the American consumer and competitors if this merger is approved.”

In a nutshell, Dish reiterates its view that the expanded Comcast will use its reach and clout to drive consumers to its own services at the expense of competitors.  The filing lays out three “choke points” in the process of delivering data and video to the home where Comcast-TW Cable would have enormous sway over key technological decisions.

The larger company would also have that much more leverage to demand high fees for carrying NBCUniversal cable channels — or withhold them entirely to prevent a potential competitor from getting off the ground, according to Dish.

Dish scoffed at Comcast’s assertion that its broadband pipes would not discriminate against content from rival companies because it would lose broadband customers in the long run. Dish cited Comcast’s internal stats that would appear to indicate that the company has a low churn rate of broadband customers. (Dish’s filing was heavily redacted when referencing financial info and proprietary data.)

“Comcast is almost like the Hotel California of broadband, an establishment guests can check into but never leave,” Dish’s filing asserted.

More reply comments are expected on Tuesday. The Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, a collection of industry players, including Dish and media watchdog groups, will hold a media conference call to discuss the filings and promo their effort to torpedo the deal.

Comcast had no comment on Dish’s filing. The company did respond to the FCC’s delay of the review time clock.

“This limited and defined three-week clock stoppage allows FCC staff to review the new materials, and we remain on track for the transaction review to be concluded early in 2015. We are pleased that the FCC did not delay the December 23 reply comment deadline so that work on the transaction will continue, and we’ll be filing our final comments tomorrow.”

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  1. I don’t see FCC will do anything about stopping the Comcast/TWC cable merger. I agree with Ted Mooney that there isn’t any competition any more. I wanted to know the same thing.

  2. Ted Mooney says:

    The problem in cable and so many areas today is too little competition. We have gone from capitalism to crony capitalism, the politicians serving the megacorps rather than the people. Tell me exactly how this merger can increase competition in the cable business please. Arguments that it’s neutral don’t cut it.

  3. I got a feeling if you are waiting for the FCC to ride on a white horse to save everybody from the Time Warner Cable/Comcast merger. don’t hold your breath.

  4. John Sanderson says:

    Comcast needs to be broken up & regulated like an utility. A content provider has no business owning a TV network. Comcast’s high rates coupled with low employee pay and massive advertising budget is a travesty. The fact that every new subscriber incentive is financed current subscribers. It is the biggest financial fraud. There is NO reason why you shouldn’t be able to subscribe to only the channels you want instead of having to buy overpriced packages!

    • Don Draper says:

      The overpriced packages won’t go away regardless of this merger. Those packages are determined by the networks that own all of the channels (FOX, NBC, ABC). Sadly, these three major networks own over 80% of the cable networks out there and force cable co’s to carry all of them in order to have the major ones (2,4,7, ESPN, etc.).

  5. Iron Fist says:

    Comcast, easily one of the top 5 worst corporations in the history of mankind, potentially merging with Time Warner, another company with a less than average reputation. If this merger is allowed to take place this will be a massive problem for Americans. Even in the current marketplace most Americans are getting service that is significantly worse and yet more expensive than what most of the rest of the world is paying. The vast majority of that exact problem stems directly from Comcast. This will be a COLOSSAL disaster for Americans in the coming years if this ridiculous idea is not stopped dead in its tracks.

    It’s crap like this and the ongoing Net Neutrality fiasco that permit the United States to continue lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to anything related to mobile telecom, media broadcasting, broadband, or basically the entire spectrum of communication services. These services have become essential for daily life by citizens and mandatory for the success of most businesses in today’s world, but yet these vital services are controlled by a very, very small number of corporations. The idea that the FCC would even CONSIDER allowing two of the largest titans in the communications market to merge and further monopolize the entire sector is absolutely shocking!

  6. It look like I going to remember where to mail my bill to and what name that Time Warner Cable and Comcast are going to used.

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