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US registers Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger misgivings

Comcast HQ

Comcast HQ

Opponents of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger announced today that they have submitted just under 600,000 public comments to the Federal Communications Commission in recent months urging it to reject the proposed deal. 

The nearly 600,000 public comments calling on the FCC to reject the merger were gathered since the deal was announced and submitted over the past few months by Common Cause, Consumers Union, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project, Presente, and The Blaze.

“Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to this disastrous merger,” claims Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy division for Consumer Reports.  “They know that combining two companies with terrible track records for providing lousy service at high prices will make an already bad situation worse.  We need more competition to give consumers real choices, not an even bigger Comcast that will dominate the market and be even less responsive to its customers’ needs.”

Consumer Reports poll released in June found that just 11% of the public supports the merger, 56% oppose, while 32% had no opinion.

“What’s obvious to so many Americans should become obvious to the FCC as well: There isn’t one single benefit to this merger,” says Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “A bigger Comcast would use its monopoly power to protect its own offerings at the expense of the online innovations sought by millions of Internet users nationwide. The merger would increase Comcast’s incentives to harm development of the streaming video market, violate Net Neutrality and-price gouge consumers. Comcast has done all of these things in the past. Handing it control of more of our media will only make matters worse.”

Critics say the merger would combine two of the worst-rated pay-TV and internet providers in the US into a media giant that would dominate the market. They also claim that Comcast would become a “national gatekeeper” for the Internet with control over nearly half of the truly high-speed residential broadband market and the authority to decide who could pass through the gate, and on what terms.

In addition, there are objections that Comcast would control almost 60% of the country’s cable television customers, and could therefore dictate what programs get carried not only in its markets but across the country.  By owning valuable programming through its merger with NBC Universal and its interests in regional sports networks and other content, Comcast already has the ability and incentive to discriminate against other pay TV providers.  The merger, some say, would increase Comcast’s power to deny its pay-TV rivals access to programming or raise licensing fees to carry those programs.

“As things stand now, the incentives for cable companies to offer affordable prices and adequate customer service are woefully insufficient. This merger would entrench Comcast’s monopoly power and make things worse for the public, as Comcast would gain even greater control over pricing, service quality, and how people are able to express themselves online” concludes David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. “That’s why hundreds of thousands have called on the FCC to protect consumers by rejecting this toxic deal.”

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