Charter-Time Warner critics band together to fight merger

Charter-Time Warner critics band together to fight merger
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Trade groups, companies and public interest groups are among the members of a coalition that launched on Thursday to pressure regulators reviewing Charter Communications’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable.

The Stop Mega Cable Coalition includes satellite provider Dish Network and industry groups such as U.S. Telecom and rural broadband group NTCA. It also features public interest groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Consumers Union.

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The coalition will make the argument to regulators, Department of Justice lawyers and Capitol Hill lawmakers that the firm created by the sale and industry-leader Comcast would dominate the marketplace, particularly for video, an area that is being rocked by the rise of new streaming services like Netflix. The two giants could drive customers to their own video offerings, critics say.

"They would dominate the market for what you use and how you use it and could tie up consumers in their preferred services,” said Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge.

The group's makeup bears similarities to the Stop Mega Comcast coalition formed in 2014 to stop the Philadelphia-based firm from acquiring Time Warner Cable.

That effort was largely seen as successful. Comcast eventually dropped its bid under pressure from regulators at the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice. At the time, then-Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderHolder defends Mueller: 'No basis to question the integrity of Mueller' Kamala Harris slams Sessions on criminal justice Deputy AG backs Sessions' tough on crime policy MORE called the decision to end the transaction “the best outcome for American consumers.”

Charter's representatives say that critics of the new deal are painting an unfair picture of the company and note that, unlike Comcast, the firm does not have a stake in any national programming interests.

The critics behind the coalition acknowledge that the deals are different — but say that doesn’t matter.

“If Comcast-Time Warner was a category five hurricane, Charter-Time Warner is a category four,” said Jeff Blum, senior vice president at DISH. “It’s still really bad.”

This report was updated at 12:38 p.m.