Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who from the start has been a vocal opponent of Comcast’s plans to merge with Time Warner Cable, was joined by five other Senate Democrats in urging Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reject the transaction.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also signed the letter.
“With Comcast’s ownership of NBCUniversal and the numerous popular TV networks it controls, the combined company would have incentives and means by which to extract higher prices from other multichannel video programming distributors and prioritize its own programming over that of competitors,” they wrote. “Comcast-TWC’s monopsony power to dictate the terms of transactions with programmers will also force companies from across the country to reevaluate their business models, including the content they produce and the prices they charge.”
Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives are meeting with officials at the Department of Justice on Wednesday to talk about the merger. According to a source, that meeting was scheduled before a report from Bloomberg on Friday that DOJ attorneys were leaning against the merger. Opponents have expressed concern over the combined company’s power over distribution of video programming as well as its share of the market for Internet service.
The DOJ and the FCC are reviewing the transaction. The FCC stopped its review timeline — called the “shot clock” — as it awaits a ruling from the D.C. Circuit on whether third parties can have confidential access to programming contracts between Comcast and major media companies.
Comcast has argued that it doesn’t compete with TW Cable in any market, and that the fast-growing world of Internet video services like Apple TV has created a more competitive landscape.
A Comcast spokeswoman said in a statement, “The benefits of the Comcast TWC deal are demonstrated and real. A better video experience — Comcast has twice as much VOD as TWC. Faster broadband speeds — today Comcast’s are 25% faster than TWC’s and we’ll roll out faster speeds to more customers. More competition for businesses that economists estimate will save $8 billion for consumers. The country’s best broadband adoption program for low-income Americans would come to new cities, and even more Americans will get connected for the first time. These benefits all come with no reduction in competition for consumers.”