Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was opposed to the Comcast/NBCU merger from the get-go on anti-competitive grounds, and now suspects his fears were well-founded. He fired off a letter to the FCC calling for an investigation into the company’s practices.
Franken stated, “Anticompetitive business practices hurt consumers by reducing competition and raising prices for services Minnesotans rely on every day. When the Obama administration signed off on Comcast’s merger with NBCUniversal, it laid out a set of rules to prevent Comcast from squashing its competitors – including popular cable alternatives – and hurting consumers who have seen rapidly rising cable rates over the last several years. If Comcast is violating the administration’s orders, it should face significant penalties so consumers know they can count on the administration to protect it from anticompetitive conduct that could mean higher bills.”
Franken cited favorable broadband carriage of its own “Xfinity on Demand” service as one area of concern; and Comcast’s dealings with Bloomberg News as another; and its dealings with online video distributors as yet another; and Comcast’s spectrum and joint marketing proposal with Verizon as still one more.
Franken concluded, “I urge your agencies to thoroughly review these issues and act quickly and vigorously to address any violations of your respective orders. If you determine that Comcast is in violation of your orders, I recommend you seriously consider substantial fines and penalties, as well as an extension of time for the relevant condition to dissuade Comcast from engaging in this type of behavior going forward. I also urge your agencies to work together to develop a faster, more comprehensive strategy for monitoring and enforcing behavioral conditions on this and other mergers. If your agencies are going to approve large telecommunications and media mergers based in part on the conditions that are imposed on the transaction, the public needs to be assured that your agencies are carefully monitoring and reviewing these transactions to ensure corporations are complying with the obligations you imposed.”