The pleading cycle clock is once again ticking at the Federal Communications Commission regarding its review of a proposed $45 billion merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The FCC had stopped the informal 180-day clock on Oct. 3 in response to a court dispute involving merger opponents' request for access to confidential cable carrier agreements.
The proposed merger between the nation's two largest cable companies requires approval from both the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the FCC's new timeline, responses to opposition comments on the merger must be filed with the agency on or before Dec. 23.
The new FCC time frame was announced on Wednesday, the same day in which a group of merger opponents announced the formation of the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition. Comcast quickly responded to that announcement in a blog post that called the coalition a "special interest group" with "no real news here."
'Frightening' Concentration of Power
According to the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, "no set of conditions can address the substantial harms that will be caused by the merger."
"If this merger goes through, Mega Comcast would control an unprecedented 50 percent of the high-speed broadband wires across the country, and would be on a path to virtual dominance of the high-speed broadband market given that the combined company will pass two-thirds of U.S. households," said Gene Kimmelman, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, one of the coalition's member organizations. "This much power concentrated in the hands of one company would be frightening even for the most trustworthy of companies. And Comcast is definitely not that."
The Stop Mega Comcast Coalition includes a diverse group of organizations from across the political and business spectrum. Members include Glenn Beck's TheBlaze, the economic opportunity advocacy group The Greenlining Institute, the non-profit Consumer Federation of America, the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Dish TV satellite network.
Questions over Loss of Broadband Choice
In a blog post published Wednesday, Sena Fitzmaurice -- Comcast's vice president of corporate communications in the area of government and regulation -- said the company expected the FCC to "complete its review of the transaction in the first quarter of 2015."
Fitzmaurice added that the newly announced Stop Mega Comcast Coalition is "well funded by some of our competitors" and is "leveling essentially the same criticisms that have been leveled in the past, and weren't found to be credible in our past transaction reviews."
She also said nearly 600 individuals and organizations have submitted comments to the FCC in support of the proposed merger. Among those are the governors of Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and six other states; 73 mayors, including Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and Orlando's Buddy Dyer; state and local officials; and other organizations, including the NAACP, the National Urban League, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In yet another merger-related development, Consumerist reported on Wednesday that Fitzmaurice's original blog post on the Comcast Web site included an editorial note following her statement that "not a single market will see a reduction in competition" as a result of the merger. The note -- since deleted -- stated, "We are still working with a vendor to analyze the FCC spreadsheet but in case it shows that there are any consumers in census blocks that may lose a broadband choice, want to make sure these sentences are more nuanced."
That comment would seem to indicate that Comcast itself is not 100-percent sure that, as it has repeatedly asserted, "consumers will not lose a choice of broadband providers."
We reached out to Comcast for comment on that statement, but did not receive a response before publication.
Posted: 2014-12-04 @ 12:41pm PT
If Comcast and Time Warner are allowed to merge, the two worst companies on planet earth will become a giant Super Worst, with AT&T doing everything it can to take over the bottom slot.