Consumer groups to FCC: Reject Comcast merger

Consumer advocacy groups have filed a formal petition asking regulators to reject Comcast’s proposed $45 billion deal to merge with Time Warner Cable.

“Denying the merger in its entirety is the only effective way to protect competition and consumers and serve the public interest,” Consumers Union and Common Cause said in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

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“Consumers have expressed strong concerns about this merger, and how it would leave them worse off — with fewer choices, higher prices, less innovation and poorer service,” the petition said, warning of industry consolidation.

The groups pointed to widespread discontent among Comcast customers as a sign that the company is already too large.

“Widespread consumer complaints of high prices, poor service, and no choices are unmistakable hallmarks of an absence of meaningful competition,” the petition said.

“Comcast and [Time Warner Cable] already dominate television and broadband service in most of the key parts of the country, and this merger would only expand and strengthen and solidify that dominance.”

Earlier this month, Comcast met with FCC officials to push back on critics’ claims that the merger would give the company too much power in the market for cable television and Internet access.

Comcast reiterated its oft-invoked defense that it does not compete with Time Warner Cable in any geographic markets, meaning a merger would not eliminate any options for consumers, according to its filing about the meeting.

But the consumer advocacy groups repeated concerns that Comcast would be too large, giving it too much power in negotiations with online and television video companies.

Comcast’s claims are not “adequately supported with credible evidence; nor have they shown how the purported public interest benefits are merger-specific, unachievable through other means,” the consumer advocates said in their petition to the FCC.

"This merger would harm competition, impede innovation by online video distributors, threaten innovation in equipment and platforms, and reduce the diversity of information sources and services to the public, all to the detriment of consumers and contrary to the public interest.”