Executives from the nation’s two largest cable providers are appearing before Congress to face questioning over their controversial merger. Comcast is seeking to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. The takeover would grant Comcast a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comcast Vice President David Cohen said acquiring Time Warner would help cable market competition.
David Cohen: "While this transaction will make us bigger, that’s a good thing, not a problem. Most of our real competitors are national and global and larger than us, like the Bells [former AT&T spinoff telecommunications companies], satellite companies, Apple, Google, Sony and Netflix. In fact, the business reason for this transaction is to create the scale that will enable Comcast to invest more in innovation and infrastructure and enhance our ability to compete more effectively."
Comcast and Time Warner have extensive government ties. Both companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and donations. The bulk of Time Warner’s lobbyists last year were former government employees. In testimony critical of the merger, Gene Kimmelman of the group Public Knowledge said it would raise prices and reduce choices for consumers.
Gene Kimmelman: "This proposed transaction consolidates too much power in the combined video and high-speed Internet market, giving Comcast a virtual gatekeeper role for fast Internet-delivered video and innovative new services. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, the issue before antitrust officials and communication regulators is really very, very simple: If we want more innovative, low-priced, Internet-delivered services, this merger must be rejected."
The merger hearings continue today in the House. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission will have final say on whether the merge is approved.