One of the leading advocates for consumers in the US believes that if Comcast is allowed to swallow Time Warner Cable, the merged entity will have too much control over residential broadband and over programming available on MVPDs generally.
One of CU’s objections is simply that it’s another big merger. It wrote, “It would encourage a cascade of new mergers, opening the floodgates to even further concentration.”
But it also has other, greater concerns.
It argued that if the merger gets regulatory approval and makes it to closing, “Comcast would control an unacceptably high percentage of the nation’s broadband households. The Justice Department has previously determined that there is a national antitrust market for content delivered over high-speed residential broadband. Competition in that market would be significantly harmed by this merger.”
CU added, “This merger would give a single company unprecedented control over key video programming, together with unprecedented control over the means by which video programming is distributed to American consumers, and would create a ‘national gatekeeper’ of the Internet.”
CU believes that there are no conditions or divestitures that can be attached to approval of the merger that would cure either of these problems.
Addressing Comcast’s argument that the two companies, by the very nature of how cable is delivered, have no territorial overlap, Comcast noted that the logical extension of the argument is that eventually Comcast should be allowed to buy up every single cable system in America that currently operates outside its own wired areas.
It also noted that in an industry hampered by a widespread reputation for providing poor customer service, both Comcast and TWC have particularly bad reps.
Tying it all together, CU said the merger “would substantially lessen competition, impede innovation by online video distributors, threaten innovation in equipment and platforms, and reduce the quality and diversity of information sources and services to the public, all to the detriment of consumers.”
It argues that the merger is a violation of antitrust law and asks that it be denied approval.