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Consumer groups want government to reject Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal

Grant Gross | Feb. 14, 2014
Antitrust enforcement agencies should reject a proposed US$45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast, because it would give the combined company huge market power in the broadband and cable TV industries, a handful of consumer and digital rights groups said.

Antitrust agencies could also look at data cap fees that Comcast is rolling out to some broadband customers, Turner said. "Their market share would control such a large share of the broadband market that they would have the ability, not only to dictate it for their own customers, but dictate prices for the entire industry," he said.

The combined company would also be able to "dictate" network peering arrangements between broadband and backbone providers, Turner said. The company would also have an outsized political influence, he added,

Cohen, during a press briefing, downplayed the concerns. "Once you take a breath, and think this through analytically, and get past some of the hysteria, this transaction is pro-consumer, pro-competitive [and] strongly in the public interest," he said.

Comcast does expect a "thorough, a rigorous, and an appropriately critical government review," he said, but it expects the deal will gain approval. With antitrust law focused largely on the effect of mergers on competition, regulators will see that the deal has no impact in that area, he said.

The deal would extend net neutrality rules that Comcast agreed to in its 2011 acquisition of NBC Universal to Time Warner customers, and it would allow the company to bring a low-cost broadband service to more cities, Cohen said. The deal would also mean higher broadband speeds for Time Warner customers, he said.

Asked about the effect of the deal on customer prices, Cohen said it's hard to predict. Comcast is "not promising that customer bills will go down or will increase less rapidly," he said. "Most of the factors that go into customer bills are factors out of our control."

Consumers will see a better quality of service, and the combined company will give them technological innovations, he said.

 

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