NYC warns feds on Comcast merger

Comcast’s $45 billion merger deal with Time Warner Cable could lead to worse service, slowed innovation and higher advertising rates, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told federal regulators.

The mayor sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler last week warning that the cable merger would have “far-reaching impacts” on his city and the rest of the nation.

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For one, the deal could lead to higher prices and worse service from the company, since it will have no major competitors to fear, he said.

“This is alarming given both Comcast’s and Time Warner Cable’s already poor customer satisfaction ratings,” de Blasio warned.

Additionally, the post-merger Comcast could “come to exert unprecedented influence over what Americans are able to create, distribute and access online,” he wrote.

And because Comcast will have a large control of the firm that is used to place national advertising, the deal may “make it make difficult and expensive” for local companies to buy ads, he warned.

Many advertisers have pushed back on fears about higher charges, telling the FCC that the company’s larger size will make it easier and more efficient to place ads across the country.  

Supporters of the deal have also noted that it would extend Comcast’s requirements to abide by the FCC’s now-trashed net neutrality rules — which prevent it from blocking or slowing service to any particular website — to Time Warner Cable customers until 2018. The rules were a condition of Comcast’s 2010 merger with NBC Universal.

New York regulators have been some of the fiercest critics of the Comcast proposal.

While the biggest oversight of the deal is happening on the federal level at the FCC and the Justice Department, states also have a role to play. New York regulators could chose to set strict requirements on the transfer of Time Warner Cable’s licenses to Comcast or demand other concessions before approving the deal within their borders.

De Blasio and others have called for Comcast to extend its Internet program for poor people, among other measures.

The state’s public service commission was originally scheduled to vote on the deal in October, but recently pushed the vote back to Nov. 16.

 

— Updated at 3:53 p.m.