CNET has a big interview with Sen. Al Franken, Capitol Hill’s most outspoken opponent of the Comcast-Time Warner merger. An excerpt:
But what about the fact that these broadband providers don’t overlap in terms of subscribership in any market? So in the true sense, there’s no real antitrust violation.
Franken: That’s not the point. First of all, the fact that they have monopolies in their own markets should say something. Together they will become one big monopoly and have a huge presence. So I don’t think we should feel better about the fact that they’ll just be getting bigger. Combined the companies will exert even more power. Time Warner Cable has acted as a counterweight to Comcast in the market.
How is Time Warner Cable a counterweight to Comcast? Do you mean in terms of being able to compete for content?
Franken: Yes, by having purchasing power and also buying content they act as a counterweight to Comcast. Time Warner Cable is keeping Comcast honest. Just ask (Comcast CEO) Brian Roberts about this. He made this point in the 2010 hearings when Comcast was buying NBC Universal. He said the fact that Comcast competes for content is the reason why it was OK for them to buy a content company like NBC Universal. They said if they did anything funny, their competitors would run to the FCC. And they named Time Warner Cable as a competitor. They even said during that hearing that it wasn't like they were trying to expand their distribution. Well, that's exactly what they're doing now.
Federal regulators are currently considering whether they'll allow the merger to proceed.