Franken slams Comcast, Time Warner Cable merger

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wants the Obama administration to prevent a $42.5 billion deal that would combine Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the country’s top cable companies.

During an upcoming episode of C-SPAN’s “The Communicators,” Franken repeated his calls for intervention from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, saying the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced earlier this year would decrease competition and harm consumers.

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Franken accused Comcast officials of misrepresenting the current cable and broadband market while testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

At the hearing, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen said Comcast currently competes with other TV providers, such as satellite companies.

Franken called Cohen’s testimony a mischaracterization of the market.

“You still want to be on the Internet, and guess what, you’re going to have to go back to Comcast,” he said.

He also pointed to the company’s statements in 2011, trying to convince the federal government to let the company purchase NBC Universal.

Comcast said back then the market was sufficiently competitive with other cable providers, including Time Warner Cable, Franken said, contrasting those arguments with this company’s arguments this year that the Time Warner Cable merger won’t decrease competition because the two cable companies don’t directly compete in any market.

“A couple of years later its, oh, we don’t compete with Time Warner Cable,” Franken said. “They’re completely contradicting themselves.”

Franken said he received more than 100,000 responses to his call for input on the merger, many of whom complained that Comcast’s service “is terrible.”

Comcast has “107 of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, … but I had more than 100,000 people write me [with] their objections,” Franken said.

During the segment, Franken also commented on pending privacy legislation, including his recently reintroduced bill to ban “stalker” apps — mobile apps that secretly track and transmit a person’s location — and a bill from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to require law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before accessing electronic communications that are older than 180 days.

“Chairman Leahy cares about both of these issues, and I have Republican colleagues that care about these issues as well,” Franken said. “I think and hope we’ll get to this.”