The proposed merger between the two biggest U.S. cable service
providers is expected to draw intense scrutiny from the Federal
Communications Commission, which reviews whether deals are in the
public interest, and either the Department of Justice or the Federal
Trade Commission, which share antitrust oversight.
The deal has drawn concern from consumer advocates and some
lawmakers who worry that the new company's size would give it too
much power to decide what Americans can watch on TV and do online.
Comcast is targeting the end of March to submit its application to
the FCC, spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said. Companies usually have
30 business days to file with the FCC after a deal's announcement.
Around the same time, Comcast will also submit documents asking
antitrust regulators for approval, she said. The FTC and Justice
Department will then determine which agency will take the lead on
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Justice Department antitrust chief
William Baer sent a rare public signal of skepticism earlier this
month on a potential deal between wireless carriers Sprint Corp and
T-Mobile US Inc. No deal has been officially proposed yet between
On Thursday, Wheeler was asked whether he had similar concerns about
the proposed tie-up between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
"It was an interesting situation in that Sprint/T-Mobile actually
came to us and said: 'We're thinking about this, what do you think
about it?' Comcast never did," Wheeler said. "So I'm in a position
right now of sitting and waiting for Comcast to file their requisite
documents so that we can begin our consideration.
"We'll wait to give it a full, fair, open hearing," he added.
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Comcast, which pledged upfront to several concessions that federal
regulators were likely to request, has maintained that customers
will benefit from the merger as services and technology improve.
"All we can ask for is a full, fair, and open hearing — and I think
Chairman Wheeler's message is that is what we will get," Comcast
Executive Vice President David Cohen said on Thursday.
"In the broadband space and in the video space, we're not depriving
a single consumer in America of a choice that he or she has today,"
Cohen told reporters after the deal was announced last week.
The chief executive officer of DirecTV, which competes against
Comcast and Time Warner Cable in the pay TV market, on Thursday
urged careful regulatory scrutiny of their proposed deal, saying it
might create an "effective broadband monopoly" in two-thirds of the
Mike White, the DirectTV CEO, said his company, the nation's largest
satellite TV provider, was still determining what position to take
with regulators who will review the merger.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in
Washington; additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles;
editing by Peter Cooney, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)
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