Tech group calls on feds to block Comcast merger

A group representing tech industry giants is calling on regulators to block the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Responding to questions from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has vocally opposed the merger, the Computer and Communications Industry Association encouraged regulators and lawmakers to oppose the merger.

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“Regulators should block this merger, not only for the good of innovation, the Internet industry and of consumers; but also for the sanctity of antitrust law itself,” Ed Black, president of the CCIA, said in a letter Monday. 

The CCIA represents companies in the tech and telecom sectors, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, TiVo, Aereo, T-Mobile and Sprint.

Black said his group opposes the merger between two of the country’s largest cable companies and Internet providers because it would increase the company’s “bottleneck market power,” giving it too much leverage when dealing with Internet users and websites.

The CCIA “is concerned that this merger poses a significant threat to innovation and competition in many parts of the marketplace, including ... the websites, platforms and online services that the vast majority of Americans use everyday,” the letter said.

Black also expressed concerns about how the merged company would interact with competing Internet providers and cable companies, which have to negotiate with Comcast for the TV programming it controls after its 2011 merger with NBC Universal.

While Comcast has argued that the merger would help the companies better compete against Internet-company rivals and increase the number of people who receive Comcast's customer benefits, the CCIA said regulators should block the merger due to the size and influence the resulting company would have.

If the merger is approved, and Comcast creates “a cable company five times bigger than its next cable competitor, how could the agencies effectively argue against a merger of Comcast and the next largest cable companies ... a few years down the road?” Black asked.

“If regulators were to conclude that the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger does not have a chance of substantially lessening competition, then it is hard to imagine a real world merger that would.”