Wheeler's comments foreboding to Comcast-TWC merger? Depends who you ask

With FCC chairman Tom Wheeler speaking at length about the general dearth of broadband competition in the U.S. Thursday, a kind of Rorschach Test has emerged in regard to the possible implications to the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.

Was this Wheeler's subtle way of implying that the Federal Communications Commission is about to quell the marriage to America's two biggest cable/broadband companies?

The Consumers Union, which stridently opposes the merger, believes so, with the group's policy counsel, Delara Derakhshani stating, "Allowing Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) to get even bigger and more powerful would chill the competition that the chairman is seeking."

GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham, an Austin-based broadband infrastructure pundit with zero expressed love for the cable industry put it another way, headlining her Thursday afternoon post, "Is this the sound of Comcast's merger hopes dying? FCC Chairman declares U.S. broadband uncompetitive."

For Wheeler to make such an overt claim about the state of U.S. broadband--he said "meaningful competition for high-speed wired broadband is lacking and Americans need more competitive choices for faster and better Internet connections"--very well might imply that he is looking to stop anything that might consolidate market power, Higginbotham speculates.

For his part, however, BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield said Wheeler's redefinition of broadband from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps (instead of 25 Mbps) "sounds positive" for the merger. "It does not sound like blocking the deal is a key part of the agenda," he noted.

The National Cable Telecommunications Assocation (NCTA), meanwhile, spun Wheeler's remarks a different way, interpreting them as a rebuke of heavy Title II Internet regulation.

"Chairman Wheeler's remarks about broadband competition underscore the importance of maintaining a light regulatory touch that encourages more investment from more companies," NCTA said in a statement.

For more:
- read this Deadline Hollywood story
- read this GigaOm story
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
SpinCo gets a real name: GreatLand Connections
Netflix to FCC: We only have trouble with big, consolidated ISPs in the U.S.
Comcast-TWC input period ends: 64K comments received, 65 groups urge rejection

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