Comcast has announced that, in light of legal obstacles, it is abandoning its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable.
The following may be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff attorney at Public Knowledge:
“This is a huge victory for consumers. If Comcast had bought Time Warner Cable, it would have been able to stop new kinds of innovative video services dead in their tracks. Instead, the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice have decided to allow competition to work. New online video services shouldn’t have to ask Comcast for permission to reach viewers or access content. The efforts by the FCC and DoJ in reviewing this deal set a new high bar for the Obama administration in antitrust and public interest review.
“Had this deal gone through, Comcast would have become an industry giant with more than 50% of the nation’s broadband connections, dominant in most key media markets. It’s clear that the DoJ and the FCC agreed with the hundreds of thousands of members of the public, consumer groups, trade unions, and private companies that told them there was no way this deal should go forward.
“As soon as this deal was announced, Public Knowledge stated it would be bad for consumers and bad for competition. Buying Time Warner Cable would have given Comcast unprecedented gatekeeper power — the ability to extract tolls and onerous conditions from Internet services and programmers that need to access Comcast's millions of subscribers. This, in turn, would have raised prices for Internet users and TV viewers nationwide, while reducing their choices.
“Comcast would have been able to use this strengthened gatekeeper power in conjunction with its other businesses — its TV network, its movie studio, its set-top box platform, and its ventures into online video — to ensure that it remained the dominant video platform of the future, even as technology opens up opportunities for new services.
“Given all this, it was apparent from the outset that there were significant antitrust and public interest reasons why the FCC and DoJ should block this deal. Public Knowledge and others filed petitions with the FCC urging it prevent the merger, have met with the FCC and DoJ numerous times explaining our objections, and have worked closely with our allies to make the case to the public and policymakers in DC and around the country that the last thing the broadband and cable industry needs is the merger of two of the least-loved cable companies.
“The public made its voice heard loud and clear to policymakers, too. Nearly one million members of the public filed comments and signed petitions before the FCC making it clear that a company with a customer service record as bad as Comcast's should not be permitted to control yet more of the country's cable and broadband connections.
“Comcast probably made a smart move by walking away from this deal now — neither the FCC nor the DoJ have made any of their findings public. As the FCC did after the withdrawal of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger proposal, we hope the agencies release public reports summarizing their objections to this deal, to allow policymakers and the public to have a better understanding of the state of the broadband market.
“Stopping this merger doesn’t fix everything that’s wrong in the broadband and cable marketplaces. But technology and business models are evolving quickly, and new video and connectivity services are just starting to emerge. They should have a chance in the marketplace–but a combined Comcast/Time Warner Cable would have been able to keep them from reaching subscribers, and keep them from accessing content. No company should have the ability to foreclose its potential competitors in this way.
Public Knowledge will continue to work to improve competition, keep the Internet open, and make the media marketplace more friendly to consumers in a variety of ways. For now, however, we would like to thank the hard-working staff at the FCC and DoJ for conducting a careful and thorough review of this transaction.”
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