Comcast and Time Warner Cable Get Questions From the FCCTodd Shields
Federal regulators asked Comcast Corp. to explain its Internet and content policies as part of the U.S. review of the company’s $45.2 billion bid to acquire Time Warner Cable Inc.
Comcast was asked by the Federal Communications Commission in a letter made public today to provide information on a range of its business practices, from programming agreements with sports leagues to Internet traffic management and data caps imposed on customers.
The FCC’s demand for data, common as part of any agency review of an acquisition, posed many questions to Comcast that get to the heart of objections raised by consumer groups, competitors and some customers. The queries included whether Comcast slows or hinders programming by rivals, has studies about how consumers view the company’s services and how the merger would effect its carriage of local sports broadcasts.
The merger would bring largest U.S. cable provider Comcast an additional 7 million customers, for a total of 29 million residential video subscribers, and a presence in the top two U.S. media markets, New York and Los Angeles.
The FCC is taking comments until Oct. 8, and has set a non-binding deadline of January to complete its consideration. The deal needs a majority vote at the five-member agency, where Chairman Tom Wheeler leads a Democratic majority.
The deal also needs clearance from antitrust officials at the Justice Department.
The FCC also sent separate requests for information to Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications Inc. In efforts to win approval from government regulators, Charter is trying to acquire some Comcast subscribers.
The commission asked that companies respond by Sept. 11.
Yesterday, Consumers Union and Common Cause urged the agency to block the deal, saying the merger would give Comcast power to raise prices, limit choices and stifle competition.
Fifty-two mayors in a letter yesterday told the agency the deal should be approved because it will propel infrastructure investment. Consumers won’t lose choice because the companies don’t compete in any market, said the mayors including Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter.