WASHINGTON Feb 27 U.S. Senator Al Franken
warned telecommunications regulators on Thursday that Comcast
Corp's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc
could mean "higher prices, fewer choices, and even worse
service for consumers."
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company, said on Feb. 13 it
had agreed to acquire No. 4 Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion.
The proposal faces reviews from U.S. regulators who will study
its effect on competition.
In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman
Tom Wheeler, Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said Comcast had
failed to live up to a long list of promises made when its 2011
agreement to acquire NBC Universal won U.S. approval.
Comcast responded that it was "proud of our track-record on
complying with the conditions from our past transactions."
"We've gone above and beyond in compliance with most
conditions, including our low-income broadband program, the
amount of local news programming and investment in local
stations, the amount of on-demand programming, especially
children's programming," said spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice.
Franken complained that Comcast had interfered in 2007 with
BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer network that Comcast viewed as a
competitor to its cable offerings.
The FCC subsequently passed rules requiring all data be
treated equally by Internet providers, although those rules were
struck down by a federal appeals court. Comcast agreed, however,
in 2011 to net neutrality provisions to win approval for the NBC
Universal deal. Net neutrality requires that all data be treated
equally by Internet providers.
Still, Franken said, "The underlying merits of the dispute
and the conduct at issue remain relevant to the FCC's
consideration of Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner
Franken also cited a study by the Free Press consumer
advocacy group, which found Comcast had failed to live up to
promises to increase local news and programming. "The FCC should
scrutinize whether these allegations have merit," Franken wrote.
He also questioned whether Comcast had lived up to promises
to provide reasonably priced broadband to customers who did not
Franken noted that the advocacy group Public Knowledge, had
petitioned the FCC in 2012 to look into Comcast's use of data
caps for some users. "The FCC should examine this issue in
connection with Comcast's proposed acquisition," he wrote.
COMCAST DEFENDS DEAL
A source close to Comcast said on Thursday the company had
no data caps, which limit Internet use, outside of a few test
areas. The source was not authorized to speak on the record and
In an early 2013 report that Comcast did on its merger with
NBC Universal, the company said it had introduced three
independent networks, was investing in news and children's
programming and had donated broadband access to schools,
libraries and areas with many low-income residents.
Comcast has argued that the combination would not reduce
competition because the two cable providers do not compete in
any markets. The company pledged to divest 3 million
subscribers, so the combined customer base of 30 million would
represent just under 30 percent of the U.S. pay television video
An FCC spokesman declined to say whether the agency was
looking any of the allegations made by Franken.