Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the committee, said the panel
would meet on April 2 to discuss plans by Comcast, the No. 1 U.S.
cable operator, to buy TWC for $45.2 billion. TWC is the No. 2 U.S.
cable operator. Both companies are major broadband Internet
On March 26, the panel will discuss the Satellite Television
Extension and Localism Act, known as STELA, which expires at the end
of 2014 and tackles, among other issues, the retransmission of
broadcasting content by satellite companies. Congress must
reauthorize the measure.
The planned Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable has raised
eyebrows even though the companies directly compete against each
other in very few markets.
"Millions of Americans rely on cable connectivity to receive the
programs they love and to access the Internet at the fast speed
needed as we conduct more of our lives online," Leahy said in a
statement. "The pending merger is an important opportunity to
examine how Americans access these valuable services."
Critics of the deal say it could give one company too much power
over what Americans see online and watch on television.
Beyond cable, a top executive of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc raised
questions recently about Comcast's potential dominance of the U.S.
broadband Internet market if the deal is allowed to go through.
Speaking at an investor conference this week, Chase Carey, president
and chief operating officer of Fox, said the broadband issue was
"Is there choice in broadband? Are you really headed toward every
home having simply one broadband provider, and what are the
implications of that?" he asked rhetorically.
The proposed transaction is subject to approval by the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.
[to top of second column]
The panel's first hearing will focus on STELA, which allows
satellite providers such as Dish and DirecTV to bring in stations
from other markets when subscribers cannot pick up local stations'
signals over the air.
Lawmakers face pressure from broadcasters and cable and satellite
companies, which see the must-pass legislation as a chance to push
for new regulations amenable to them.
It also gives the FCC power to oversee retransmission consent deals
to ensure the negotiations are in good faith. It expires at the end
The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee this week
started the process with a draft of a bill that has already come
under fire from Democrats who worry it does not properly address
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by
Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)
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