Comcast Today: Merger Faces Washington Skepticism

Today's hearing happens just as company is named "Worst in America" by Consumerist

Comcast takes it’s merger case to Washington today. It’s going to be controversial. Let’s check the headlines:

Comcast Gears Up to Persuade Regulators: Comcast presented regulators on Tuesday with 650 pages of reasons to approve its takeover of Time Warner Cable, saying a merger of the two largest cable television companies would spur rather than inhibit competition by encouraging rivals to improve their cable and high-speed Internet service. Comcast is not relying on legal filings alone to try to win what is expected to be a bruising battle with the deal’s opponents. The company has already been busy briefing lawmakers and their staffs, particularly from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on Wednesday to examine the proposed merger’s antitrust implications. Comcast also recently added to its small army of lobbyists two former legislative aides who advised the Judiciary Committee on antitrust matters. (New York Times)

Comcast, Time Warner to face lawmakers on merger plan: A primary concern for Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chair of the committee, is “diverse and independent video programming.” “Cable companies play a dominant role in how many people in this country get information. Consumers deserve to know how a merger between two of the largest companies in this industry will impact them,” Leahy said in prepared testimony. Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the committee’s antitrust panel and a Minnesota Democrat, is worried about both cable and broadband. “I will specifically be looking at how the proposed merger will impact prices and service, how it would affect Comcast’s control over programming and what people are able to watch, and how it would change Comcast’s control over people’s access to the Internet,” she said in a statement. (Reuters)

Comcast takes merger case to Washington: Comcast and Time Warner Cable want to join forces. But first, they’ve got to win over Washington. The companies took a big step on that front Tuesday, filing a merger application with the Federal Communications Commission. On Wednesday, their representatives will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to plead their case. A chorus of commentators and non-profit groupshave denounced the proposal since the firms firstannounced it in February, charging that it will further reduce competition in the cable and broadband industries. Comcast’s executive vice president, David Cohen, hit back in a blog post Tuesday. He argued that the merger will lead to improvements in services for customers. (CNN Money)

David Cohen’s Blog Post: “Along the way, we’ve kept the promises we’ve made in bringing benefits to consumers from our transactions. We’ve met or exceeded our commitments in every deal. Our most recent, the NBCUniversal transaction, contained more than 150 conditions. We’ve demonstrated over and over again in our annual compliance reports that we’ve met or exceeded these conditions. In over three years, we had only one instance where the FCC took issue with the company’s compliance, which was fully addressed. We promised to expand our broadband network by 4,500 miles, and we exceeded that promise and built 6,300 miles. We promised to add 300,000 new homes passed by broadband, and we more than doubled that and added 715,000 homes. We promised to expand broadband to six additional communities, and we expanded to 33. With Internet Essentials, we continually upgraded and expanded the program which was originally set to expire this year, and recently announced we would extend it indefinitely. We are proud of our record of honoring our commitments. Time and time again, Comcast has delivered – and over-delivered – on its promises to unleash more investment and innovation. Together with TWC, we are fully poised to do so again. (Comcast)

Standing Up to Comcast: Allowing Comcast to merge with Time Warner would only strengthen its market position and allow it to charge ever higher tolls. Will the authorities in Washington rise to the occasion and say enough is enough? Or will Comcast and the cable guys show, once again, that they own the nation’s capital? We are about to find out. (New Yorker)

Comcast beats Monsanto in Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” poll: Comcast has edged out controversial agribusiness giant Monsanto in Consumerist’s March Madness-style “Worst Company in America” poll. “In one of the narrowest Final Death Matches in the centuries’ long history of WCIA battle, Comcast managed to hold the genetically modified body blows of Monsanto,” Consumerist wrote. To outlast 31 other competitors, Comcast had to win five rounds, defeating Yahoo, Facebook, Verizon, and SeaWorld before taking on Monsanto. The final poll was close, with 51.5 percent of voters selecting Comcast. (Ars Technica)

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