Sen. Jeff Merkley voices Charter-TWC industry consolidation concerns

Sen. Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.) has written the FCC and Justice Department, asking them to "thoroughly consider" Charter's (NASDAQ: CHTR) bid to acquire Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks.

Merkley's letter adds another credible voice to the forces creating friction amid Charter's acquisition bids, as the regulatory review processes enter the closing phases.

"I am particularly interested in whether the consolidation in the industry will negatively impact access to broadband, raise prices, or limit innovation," Merkley said. 

"The shrinking number of operators could limit access to necessary broadband services," he added. "With the potential deal, the newly merged company could be incentivized to close off new online video competitors, further limiting options for consumers. The company would also enjoy increased bargaining power when negotiating video programming fees, which could allow it to underprice smaller cable companies and new entrant video services, potentially threatening their ability to compete and limiting the delivery of broadband service to rural America."

For its part, Charter has noted HBO's support for its mergers while defending its record on online video. 

Meanwhile, several industry orgs, led by the NTCA AND INCOMPAS, save suggested a way to let Charter's increased bargaining leverage work for smaller operators — the MSO could become the lynchpin of a new co-op, the groups have suggested. 

As for Merkley, he joins five other Democratic Senators who have also weighed on the mergers recently with the DOJ and FCC: Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The list of Congressional opposition also includes Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa), who said, "The proposed 'New Charter' will impact consumers and suppliers of video, voice and broadband applications, and entire service markets. Specifically, it is important to endure that consumers in the Tampa Bay area and across the country not experience diminish customer service and service quality, and unnecessary and unwise reduction in our local workforce and diversity of that workforce, a reduction in local programming and degraded programming options, and a reduction in the local commitment to schools and philanthropic endeavors." 

For more:
- read this letter from Sen. Jeff Merkley

Related articles:
Bernie Sanders worried Charter-TWC deal will create 'broadband duopoly'
Senators take Comcast, other MSOs to task for modem leasing
NTCA, INCOMPAS propose video purchasing co-op with Charter as anchor member

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