| WASHINGTON, April 9
WASHINGTON, April 9 Executives from Comcast Corp
and Time Warner Cable Inc are expected to
defend their plan to merge as they go before the Senate
Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, the first hearing since the
$45.2-billion deal was announced in February.
The proposed merger has stirred the ire of public interest
groups who worry that a bigger Comcast would have too much clout
over fast-growing broadband, free rein to raise cable rates and
more power over what Americans watch on television.
David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, and
Arthur Minson, TWC's finance chief are expected to argue that
their cable and broadband services do not compete with each
other. Time Warner customers also stand to get faster Internet
speeds and better cable service, the companies have said.
Further, they are likely to reiterate that Comcast faces
competition in both Internet and video markets from the likes of
Google Inc and Apple Inc - an argument Comcast
made in filings with the Federal Communications Commission on
A primary concern for Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont
Democrat and chair of the committee, is "diverse and independent
"Cable companies play a dominant role in how many people in
this country get information. Consumers deserve to know how a
merger between two of the largest companies in this industry
will impact them," Leahy said in prepared testimony.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the committee's antitrust
panel and a Minnesota Democrat, is worried about both cable and
broadband. "I will specifically be looking at how the proposed
merger will impact prices and service, how it would affect
Comcast's control over programming and what people are able to
watch, and how it would change Comcast's control over people's
access to the Internet," she said in a statement.
Also due to appear on Wednesday is Gene Kimmelman, head of
consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge and a vocal opponent of
the merger. Kimmelman was at the Justice Department's Antitrust
Division in 2011 when it approved the merger of Comcast and NBC
Universal but stopped AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile
"The merger will even more firmly entrench Comcast as the
gatekeeper at the crossroads of Internet, television, and
communications innovation," Kimmelman's testimony says.
In an effort to win approval Comcast has pledged to divest 3
million subscribers so the combined company's customer base of
30 million would be just under 30 percent of the U.S. pay
television market. The combined company would also serve between
20 and 40 percent of the high-speed Internet market, Comcast
said in Tuesday's filing.
Rounding out Wednesday's panel are James Bosworth from
Back9Network, an independent golf channel; Richard Sherwin from
Spot On Networks, a managed Wi-Fi provider; and Christopher Yoo,
a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The Justice Department will review the merger to ensure it
complies with antitrust law. The Federal Communications
Commission has a broader public interest standard. Attorneys
general from Florida, Indiana and several other states are also
looking at the deal.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros
Krasny, Bernard Orr)