Bernie Sanders worried Charter-TWC deal will create 'broadband duopoly'

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined Al Franken and three other U.S. Senators in expressing concern over possible "duopoly" control implications relating to Charter Communications' (NASDAQ: CHTR) proposed purchases of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks.


The five senators, which include Sanders (D-Vt.), Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who are overseeing the respective merger review processes on behalf of the FCC and Justice Department. 

"The proposed 'New Charter' would effectively create a nationwide broadband duopoly, leaving New Charter and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) largely in control of the essential wires that connect most Americans to how we commonly communicate and conduct commerce in the 21st Century," the Senators said. 

Notably, the Senators stopped short of asking regulators to block the deal altogether. 

"Two companies would control nearly two thirds of the nation's high-speed broadband homes. We request that the DOJ and FCC carefully evaluate how the proposed deal could impact the telecommunications market," the letter added. "New Charter must not only prove that this deal would not harm consumers, but they must also demonstrate that it would actually benefit them and promote the public interest."

The duopoly control, the lawmakers added, could impact online video. 

"New Charter could have an increased incentive to close off the possibility of new OVD competitors, causing harms to the online streaming service market and consumers," the Senators stated. "For example, if just two companies — New Charter and Comcast — stifle video streaming services, OVDs could be left without an effective way to enter the homes of a majority of high-speed broadband customers."

The Democratic lawmakers have been particularly active in the area of telecom policy recently.

Earlier this month, the five Senators joined Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in petitioning Wheeler to closely examine the modem leasing business. 

These same lawmakers also urged Wheeler to move on reforming pay-TV set-top leasing rules — a request the FCC Chairman has indulged with a recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 

For more:
- read this letter to the FCC
- read this Variety story
- read this Raw Story report

Related articles:
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Senators take Comcast, other MSOs to task for modem leasing
Charter-TWC decision set for split vote by California regulators, opposition group lawyers say