Franken calls Comcast merger, net neutrality First Amendment issues

While most pontificating politicians wrap themselves in the flag, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has taken a different approach; he's using the Constitution to expound on the dangers of a combined Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA)-NBC Universal and the need for net neutrality.

Net neutrality, Franken told Netroots Nation, is "the First Amendment issue of our time." As for his favorite subject--Comcast-NBCU--the former Saturday Night Live regular called a successful merger the "first domino" of what would promise to be a continuing string of mega mergers among media companies. "If Comcast merges with NBC, how long do you think it will take for Verizon and AT&T to start looking at CBS-Viacom and ABC-Disney?" he asked.

For perspective, nobody really jumped on the monster merger bandwagon after Time Warner and AOL (NYSE: AOL) merged (and look how well that worked out) and there once were seven small Regional Bell Operating Companies but now there are three (if you want to count Qwest) thanks to a series of "mega mergers" between phone companies.

On a more cost-conscious note, ACA Chairman Steve Friedman pointed to the danger that "the biggest merger of our time" would inevitably lead to higher programming prices for smaller cable operators because evidence says "their rates, terms and conditions will be even more discriminatory."

Finally, the man who could end up refereeing both issues, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will join FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee today before heading off to appear at a Communications Workers of American function. The CWA is one of many groups opposed to the Comcast-NBCU merger, which, in turn, will be addressed by Comcast EVP David Cohen tomorrow.

For more:
- see this story
- and this news release
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