Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives were “grilled for more than three hours” Wednesday by a Senate Judiciary Committee whose members seemed skeptical about their proposed merger and expressed concern about the impact on consumers and competition, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Joe Flint.
“Where’s the beef? Where’s the 'there' there for consumers?” asked Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. He said there’s a “general sense of skepticism” that the deal would help anyone other than the two companies.
“While this transaction will make us bigger, that is a good thing, not a problem," said Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen. He said consumers will be offered “more choices and better prices.”
"Cable companies have moved beyond delivering television, adapting their networks to provide broadband. They are now the sole source of this service for millions of Americans," pointed out Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "Consumers deserve to know how a merger between two of the largest companies in this industry will impact them."
Gene Kimmelman, president of the media reform group Public Knowledge, said at the hearing that the combination would be like “a nationwide octopus with massive tentacles” that could squeeze customers.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was one of the harshest critics, predicting that the deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices. He also pointed out that when Comcast bought NBCUniversal, Chief Executive Brian Roberts said the company didn’t have plans to buy more distributors, and that it had cited Time Warner Cable as a competitor that would make it tough for Comcast to engage in anti-competitive strategies.
"Comcast can’t have it both ways," Franken said. "They can’t say the existence of competition among distributors was a reason to approve the NBC deal in 2010 and turn around and say the absence of competition with Time Warner Cable is a reason to approve this deal."