House Dems want to scrutinize AT&T, Comcast mergers

Democrats on the House Commerce subcommittee on communications want their panel to examine recently announced mergers between giants in the telecommunications industry.

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During a hearing Tuesday, ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) urged subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to hold hearings to discuss the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger announced earlier this year and the AT&T-DirecTV merger announced this week.

Critics have warned that the two mergers will lead to bigger companies in an industry that is already too consolidated.

The Comcast-Time Warner merger would combine two of the country’s largest Internet providers and cable companies, and the AT&T-DirecTV merger would combine one of the country’s largest Internet and wireless companies with one of the largest satellite television companies. 

These deals would lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers, public interest advocates and lawmakers have warned.

“These are massive decisions and massive pieces that are moving forward,” Eshoo said, asking Walden to convene hearings on the mergers.

“I urge you to convene a hearing to examine these issues here,” she said.

In her written opening statement, Matsui called on the subcommittee to “do its part” in examining “some of the largest mergers in our nation’s telecommunications history.”

“Americans, including many in my district in Sacramento, are seeing the trends towards consolidation” among telecom and Internet companies, she said.

“What does all of this mean or them, for competition and for the economy?” she asked.