Comcast-TWC input period ends: 64K comments received, 65 groups urge rejection

The FCC's public comment period for Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) ended Monday, Aug. 25 with nearly 64,000 individual pieces of input received by the commission, and 65 groups urging the regulators to reject the deal out of hand or impose significant conditions and restrictions.

Reiterating its earlier stated opposition, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) told the FCC that "Comcast/TWC would be able to foreclose or degrade the online video offerings of competing MVPD and OTT video providers at any of three 'choke points': (1) the points of interconnection to the combined company's broadband network, in effect the 'on ramp' to the Comcast/TWC network; (2) the last mile 'public Internet' portion of the pipe to the consumer's home; and (3) managed or specialized service channels, which can act as super HOV-lanes and squeeze the capacity of the 'public Internet' portion of the Comcast/TWC broadband pipe."

New York mayor Bill De Blasio, meanwhile, asked Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler to impose major conditions on the deal.

"A series of similar mergers has already reduced competition in the cable and broadband sectors, leaving Americans vulnerable to increasing rates and declining customer service," he wrote. "Comcast and TWC operate cable networks in distinct non-overlapping geographic markets. Nonetheless, the vertical integration resulting from this transaction may reduce competition between distributors and programmers, with Comcast potentially favoring its own programming and requiring bundling agreements."

"If this deal goes through, we can expect to be hit with more skyrocketing bills and worse service as Comcast gains even more control over what we see online and on TV," added Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, introducing a 48-page petition to Wheeler calling for outright rejection of the proposed deal. "The two companies have failed to demonstrate how the merger would serve the public interest. The benefits they claim are overstated, or elusive, or don't depend on a merger, and they are far outweighed by the harms."

Responding via corporate blog, Comcast executive VP David Cohen seemed to ignore all the rhetoric pointed to potential anti-competitive issues, zeroing in on what he views as narrow interests trying to take advantage of diversity mandates.

"As in many prior transactions, various parties have attempted to use this review to advance agendas that have nothing to do with this transaction and to seek government support for parochial business interests that in many cases are seeking more money and distribution for themselves," Cohen wrote.

For more:
- read this Comcast blog post
- read this Multichannel News story
- read this GigaOm story

Related links:
FCC gets to work on Comcast-TWC: Denies L.A. extension request, orders info
Comcast-TWC deal draws 43K public comments as L.A. mayor asks FCC to extend deadline
AT&T, DirecTV demand that FCC not extend comment period on merger review

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