This Week in Tech: Lawmakers to press Comcast on merger

Lawmakers in the House this week will get their first chance to press Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives on the two companies’ proposed $45 billion merger.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing comes almost exactly a month after the Senate took a look at the merger and is likely to cover similar ground.

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In the Senate, multiple lawmakers expressed skepticism that the cable deal would be good for their constituents, though executives from the communications giants asserted it would lead to faster Internet access. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said last month that the hearing would provide an opportunity “to review Comcast’s arguments in support of the transaction included in the FCC filing.”

“We look forward to conducting a balanced hearing on the proposed transaction and ensuring that both consumers and competition in the marketplace are protected,” he said.

Comcast has significantly beefed up its lobbying power in Washington since proposing the acquisition earlier this year, a move that has elicited some pushback from consumer advocates already opposed to the deal.

Also on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to consider a bill to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which governs the marketplace for satellite TV and is set to expire at the end of the year. The markup has not yet been officially announced by the committee, but multiple observers say it will take place Thursday.

The Republican bill was approved by a subcommittee earlier this year after Democrats withdrew their amendments for broader video reforms and to keep out language intended to hamper the Federal Communications Commission.

According to a Democratic aide, members of the two parties are working to find a compromise but have not yet reached a deal.

Rounding out Thursday on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee is once again scheduled to look at a patent reform bill from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Leahy has repeatedly delayed consideration of his bill aimed at patent trolls — the companies that profit by bringing and threatening to bring meritless patent infringement lawsuits — while committee members work to find compromises on the more contentious patent reform proposals.

Elsewhere, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel will speak at a Wednesday conference on unlicensed airwaves, which power consumer electronics devices like garage door openers and Wi-Fi routers. The conference — hosted by WifiForward, a tech and telecom trade group, including Google and Comcast — will also include representatives from Microsoft, Google and the Consumer Electronics Association.

The Media Institute will host a lunch Thursday with Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. According to the agency, Ramirez will discuss consumer privacy.

On Monday, the Internet Education Foundation is hosting the State of the Mobile Net conference at the Newseum. FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen is scheduled to sit down for a discussion, and officials from the private sector, government and think tanks will discuss wireless issues.