Comcast Today: David L. Cohen Says Merger ‘Not a Particularly Worrisome Transaction’

No reason for the feds to bust Time Warner deal on antitrust grounds, he says.

Fortune Magazine has an interview today with Comcast’s David L. Cohen, whom they describe as the company’s “top government guy” — notice they don’t say “lobbyist” — about Netflix, the Time Warner deal, and the future of net neutrality.

Some excerpts:

On the deal that gives Netflix direct access to Comcast’s pipes, giving viewers a cleaner and faster video experience from that company: “Netflix, which doesn’t hesitate to publicly complain when they think they’re being mistreated — and I say that with a smile on my face and totally appropriately — has never publicly expressed any unhappiness with the pace or content of their negotiations with Comcast, because all of those negotiations were premised on the desire by Netflix to gain a strong experience for their customers and for us to ensure that Netflix customers using the Comcast network would have a good experience as well.”

On federal review of the merger with Time Warner: “When you peel the onion back from this transaction, this is simply not a particularly worrisome transaction from the perspective of antitrust law, competition policy, or the public interest analysis that the FCC has to go through. These are two companies that do not compete in any market in the country, so there’s no reduction from a consumer perspective.”

• On whether Comcast will abide by “net neutrality” principles after restrictions from the NBCUniversal merger expire in 2018: “I think it is beyond question that the FCC will have in place a new set of legally enforceable Open Internet principles well before 2018 when this commitment expires. So we believe it is entirely appropriate for there to be Open Internet rules, we’ve become a convert to that position, we supported the no-blocking and the non-discrimination rules as well as the transparency rules. We’ll support them again.”

• On his political ambitions: “I have never been interested in any job or honorary appointment in connection with that political activity. It’s never been the reason why I’ve been involved in the political process.”

Read the whole thing.

Other Comcastic headlines:

• As Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, seeks the federal government’s approval for a $45.2 billion deal to buy No. 2 Time Warner Cable the company, and Cohen, are everywhere in Washington—pressing their case with members of Congress and their staffs by day and entertaining them by night. In 2013, Comcast spent $18.8 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than any company except defense contractorNorthrop Grumman. The company gives millions of dollars to politicians of both parties through its political action committee. The Comcast Foundation donated $16.2 million to charities in 2012, often inviting politicians to attend events, where they can be seen and photographed supporting worthy causes. “They are ubiquitous,” says Gene Kimmelman, former chief counsel for competition policy at the Department of Justice. “They really have everything covered at the highest levels of skill and experience.” (Businessweek)

The U.S. Justice Department’s top antitrust official will be recused from reviewingComcast‘s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The Justice Department confirmed on Thursday that Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer won’t take part in reviewing the deal. Mr. Baer represented General Electric and NBCUniversal as a lawyer at Arnold & Porter LLP in 2011 when Comcast acquired a majority stake in NBCUniversal. “I just wanted to confirm that the antitrust division is looking at the proposed acquisition involving Comcast and Time Warner. Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer will be recused on the matter,” Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said via email. (Wall Street Journal)

• Deal Has AT&T Worried: The telecom giant’s CEO,Randall Stephenson, said the move shifted his view of the year ahead, giving him a greater sense of urgency to build out AT&T’s Internet-protocol, fiber network as well as its LTE wireless broadband network. Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference Thursday, Mr. Stephenson said the merged Comcast/Time Warner Cable will cover 80% of the households in the U.S. That means a giant competitor in AT&T’s backyard. “It’s an industry redefining deal from our standpoint,” the CEO said. (Wall Street Journal)