Stop Mega Comcast Coalition Urges FCC and DOJ to Reject Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

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New coalition launches in opposition to the proposed merger and warns of alarming consequences for consumers and the future of broadband

Today, a group of concerned private companies, public interest groups, labor unions and industry associations announced that they have formed the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition. The Coalition will advocate for a rejection of Comcast’s attempt to acquire Time Warner Cable. The Coalition believes that no set of conditions can address the potential harms that will be caused by the merger.

“A competitive and diverse media and technology marketplace is fundamental to the health of our economy and our democracy,” said Gene Kimmelman, President and CEO of Public Knowledge. “If this merger goes through, Mega Comcast would control an unprecedented 50% of the high-speed broadband wires across the country, and would be on a path to virtual dominance of the high-speed broadband market given that the combined company will pass two-thirds of U.S. households. This much power concentrated in the hands of one company would be frightening even for the most trustworthy of companies. And Comcast is definitely not that.”

The Stop Mega Comcast Coalition believes that the proposed Comcast-TWC merger threatens competition, would be harmful to consumers, and runs counter to our antitrust and communications laws. It should be rejected by federal regulators. If allowed to proceed, merged Comcast-TWC would become the gatekeeper to America’s high-speed broadband homes and have drastic consequences across five key market segments, including:

  • Broadband: Comcast-TWC would control 50% of the high-speed broadband market. Those who want their content to flow quickly and freely will have to submit to Comcast-TWC’s terms, giving Comcast-TWC the power and the incentive to increase their prices at the expense of consumers, content creators and innovation.
  • Programming and Pay TV: Comcast-TWC would be the nation’s most dominant pay TV provider, while also owning NBC-Universal, one of the biggest programmers in the world. Comcast-TWC would have the means and the incentive to advance its own content at the expense of other programmers and to force consumers to pay more for content not controlled by Comcast-TWC.
  • Connected Consumer Devices: Comcast’s X1 Platform would be the default streaming system for the vast majority of broadband subscribers, affording Comcast-TWC extraordinary power over the content available to broadband consumers and forcing competing devices to submit to Comcast-TWC's terms in order to gain entry to the marketplace. This means fewer choices for consumers and less motivation for companies to invest in new and innovative technologies.
  • Local Advertising: Comcast-TWC would control 71% of the local cable advertising market. Local cable ads are critical for local businesses, particularly small businesses, to reach their customers. Local cable advertising is also a critical component of business for cable companies. Confronted with Comcast-TWC’s control over 71% of the market, small business marketers and cable companies will have no choice but to pay Comcast-TWC’s rates, raising small business costs and increasing prices for consumers.
  • Latino and Minorities: Comcast-TWC would reach more than 91% of Latino households and control programming in 19 of the top 20 Latino media markets. That means virtually the entire Latino community could find itself with far fewer programming choices, lower quality programming and fewer opportunities for Latinos in the creative content industries.

“Put simply, Mega Comcast would be disastrous for consumers,” continued Kimmelman. “Already known for its terrible customer service, if allowed to go through with the merger, Mega Comcast would deliver increased consumer frustration and hamper technological innovation. Allowing a single company to dominate 50% of our nation’s broadband wires is not only a recipe for disaster, but it also runs counter to our antitrust and communications laws. The FCC and DOJ should unequivocally reject this merger.”

As of December 3, Coalition members include:

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DISH, Jeff Blum:

“As the gatekeeper to half of all high-speed broadband connections in the United States, Mega Comcast would have the power to limit which, if any, competing over-the-top services its customers can access,” said Jeff Blum, senior vice president and deputy general counsel, DISH Network. “The inevitable result of this merger: fewer options at a higher price.”

Sports Fan Coalition, David Goodfriend:

“This proposed transaction could be called 'bad sports,’” said David Goodfriend, founder of the Sports Fan Coalition. “The Sports Fan Coalition opposes the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable because both companies have a long track record of preventing fans who do not get cable from watching games, and the problem will only get worse if the two companies combine. Time Warner Cable showed its true colors this year, keeping 70% of L.A. Dodgers fans from watching their team during a great season. Comcast shuts out fans in Philadelphia and Portland. Economists agree that whenever a cable operator owns a Regional Sports Network, fewer fans see the games and the problem gets worse the cable company grows. Add to that the merged companies' ability to shut out online video sources of sports and the conclusion is clear: this merger would be bad for fans and should be rejected."

Consumer Federation of America, Mark Cooper:

“There isn’t a consumer anywhere in America who will be better off if this deal is approved,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America. “But there will be millions who are directly harmed. The union of the two largest cable-and-broadband companies would create a colossus that would have zero incentive to respond to market pressures. If people think cable service and prices are atrocious today, they haven’t seen anything yet.”

Greenlining Institute, Paul Goodman:

“Mega Comcast would harm minority and low-income communities across the country,” said Paul Goodman, legal counsel, Greenlining Institute. “Mega Comcast’s expanded market share would reinforce the barriers to access facing these communities and dramatically decrease the diversity of suppliers, managers and owners operating in the marketplace. In addition, in light of its failure to demonstrate how this transaction would benefit consumers, Comcast’s abysmal reputation among its customers would undoubtedly persist. Simply put, this transaction would not serve communities of color or the public interest.”

ITTA, Genny Morelli:

“This deal would fundamentally alter the communications landscape to the detriment of consumers everywhere,” said Genny Morelli, president of ITTA. ”By usurping control of the majority of video programming and distribution across the country, Mega Comcast would undercut existing small and mid-size communications companies, and restrict new competitors from entering the marketplace in the future. Consumers at the mercy of these harsh market conditions could anticipate their options for service providers to dissolve, while prices would continue to climb."

Parents Television Council, Tim Winter:

“Consumers already face skyrocketing cable and broadband costs, and Mega Comcast’s enormous market power would exacerbate this while causing the prospect of greater consumer choice to die,” said Tim Winter, president of Parents Television Council. “Plus, the diversity of content and services available to consumers today is bound to suffer under Mega Comcast’s control — and this could have drastic consequences for family-friendly TV content. Consumers and families deserve better."

WeatherNation TV, Michael Norton:

“WeatherNation TV is an independent weather service,” said Michael Norton, president of WeatherNation TV. “Our biggest competitor is The Weather Company, which is partly owned by Comcast. This provides Comcast with an equity stake in one of the most widely distributed cable channels, The Weather Channel, and the dominant weather data service provider in the U.S., WSI, which most local broadcasters are dependent on today. Left to its own devices, Comcast could use its additional distribution muscle after acquiring Time Warner Cable to further favor its own service, The Weather Channel, and weather data service, WSI, at the expense of us, the competition. In a competitive market, businesses and consumers would have many different options to receive their weather information, pushing everyone in the industry to get the most accurate data and important emergency information out quickly and clearly. Allow one company to dominate weather as a category, as Comcast would post-merger, and you won’t have that competition. You won’t have the best possible dissemination of critical weather data. That is why we think the merger should be rejected.”

Consumer Action, Linda Sherry:

“The union of the two largest cable-and-broadband companies in the U.S. would result in customer service nightmares and the potential for even higher prices for certain consumers,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities, Consumer Action. “By Comcast’s own admission, its bad reputation among its customers is due to its large size. Applying this logic to the impending merger, Mega Comcast’s quality of customer service would continue to plummet, while monthly costs and consumer frustration would spike. This anti-consumer transaction must be blocked.”

TheBlaze, Lynne Costantini:

“A healthy communications landscape is one that supports access to a wide variety of viewpoints and sources of information,” said Lynne Costantini, president of business development, TheBlaze. “The FCC has already determined that Comcast can and does deny consumers access to independent programming in order to favor its own content and affiliated networks. We believe this anti-competitive conduct will not only continue but will increase if this merger is approved without the imposition of structural and behavioral conditions that serve the public interest. Granting Comcast more gatekeeping power will stifle the free exchange of information and ideas by providing Comcast with greater incentive and ability to block competing channels and opposing viewpoints from access to its customers in order to advantage its own content or its political point of view.”

Writers Guild of America, West, Chris Keyser:

“Comcast’s proposed acquisition would give a single company too much power to determine what we as writers create and what viewers watch,” said Chris Keyser, president of Writers Guild of America, West. “The company’s layered control of programming, distribution and broadband connections would force content creators to submit to the company’s terms, or risk exclusion from the majority of American households. At a time when we are beginning to realize the tremendous potential of the Internet to expand content choices and increase competition, Comcast would have the ability and incentive to undermine all this progress. If this merger is not stopped, the power to control the pipeline would trump the power to create. The result would be less creativity, less innovation and less choice.”

Future of Music Coalition, Casey Rae:

“Mega Comcast would be a perfect storm for musicians and the creative community at large,” said Casey Rae, CEO of the Future of Music Coalition. “Mega Comcast’s domination over internet access, programming and distribution would render artists powerless in negotiations over how their music is accessed and under what terms. Any deal that deliberately disrupts the flow of innovative, affordable content to consumers is an undeniable threat to the public interest.”

FairPoint Communications, Pat Morse:

“The deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable would dramatically undercut and alter the communications landscape by conceding 50% of the retail broadband market and nearly one-third of video content to just one company,” said Pat Morse, senior vice president, government affairs, FairPoint Communications. "The opportunities for Comcast to further engage in anti-competitive behavior at the expense of consumers will be unprecedented if policymakers allow this deal to be approved.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Michael Romano:

“Members of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association are committed to providing their customers with the high-quality services they need and want,” said Michael Romano, senior vice president of policy, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “Although rural telecommunications providers are doing a tremendous job of deploying video and other advanced services, access to content on reasonable terms and conditions is essential to the viability of NTCA’s members. A combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable would have greater ability and incentive to control prices, terms, conditions and availability of content to the detriment of small, rural competitors and the consumers they serve. NTCA continues to urge the FCC to deny the merger.”

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Amanda Keating