FCC Approves Big Ass Cable Merger

As expected, the FCC said “yeah, baby” to a deal between Comcast and AT&T Broadband, wherein the former will acquire the latter. This creates the largest cable company in the US, with twice as many customers as the #2 company, Time-Warner cable. Any cable subscriber with a brain (and who isn’t a major stockholder) has feared that this merger will cause rates to spike, and possibly limiting the variety of content available over cable TV and over broadband Internet services.

Unsurprisingly, the FCC’s lone Democrat released a statement critical of the merger, writing,

“The sheer economic power created by this mega-combination, and the opportunities for abuse that would accompany it, outweigh the very limited public interest benefits that either the Applicants or the majority find here. The more I review the issues at stake in this proposal, the more I am persuaded it should not go forward. I therefore dissent from this transfer of control.

For his part, FCC Chair Michael Powell says simply,

“The benefits of this transaction are considerable; the potential harms negligible. We therefore conclude that the merger serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”

The only public interest benefit that he actually cites is that the deal requires Comcast to sell its 25% stake in Time-Warner, which “finally severs a complex relationship of intertwining programming and distribution assets that has plagued the Commission for years.” It sounds to me like amputating a finger to treat a hangnail.

These types of mergers pass pretty easily at the FCC right now partly because there’s only a single Democratic commissioner even though the law calls for two — the party in the executive gets three out of the five commissioners. But the Senate has been holding up its approval of the second democratic commissioner nominated by the President, so the industry- and merger- friendly FCC has had only one public-interest gadfly to contend with.






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