Reid raises warnings over Charter-Time Warner Cable deal

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDHS chief: 21 states sought help over election hacking concerns The missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security MORE (D-Nev.) said Charter’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable has the potential to harm Internet competition, comparing it to Comcast’s failed acquisition last year. 

Reid sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging the two agencies to closely review the proposed deal, which also includes the smaller Bright House Networks. 

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“The proposed Charter acquisition has the potential to erect further barriers to broadband competition, including from wireless and fiber,” according to Reid’s letter. “Moreover, barriers to broadband competition and reduced consumer choice in online video inextricably are linked.”

Both the FCC and Justice Department rejected Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable last year, concluding that the larger company would act as a gatekeeper between customers and content. 

“Using this same standard, there is significant question about whether Charter’s purchase of Time Warner will lead to the same result,” Reid said. 

He pressed the agencies to explore how well they could actually enforce any conditions if the merger were approved, and he noted that most people have only a few options when picking high-speed Internet. 

Reid’s letter follows similar warnings from a number of other Senate Democrats in recent weeks. The FCC and the Justice Department must approve the deal before it goes through. The FCC is 157 days into its informal 180-day shot clock for review. 

The proposed deal, in which Charter would acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, was announced in late May. That followed the failed Comcast and Time Warner deal after regulators raised reservations about the its impact on the online video market. 

Charter has already agreed to abide by a number of self-imposed conditions, which has won over some skeptics of the previous Comcast deal, including Netflix. But a number of public interest groups are opposing it. 

“For months, we have worked with state and federal regulators to demonstrate New Charter’s plan to add tens of thousands of American jobs, expand broadband access to millions of underserved homes, preserve an open Internet and offer fast, unlimited broadband at a better value without additional modem fees,” said Alex Dudley, a spokesperson for Charter.

“We are pleased that Netflix and other key stakeholders across the country have recognized that New Charter will be a ‘tremendous positive’ for the OVD industry and consumers.”

The multibillion-dollar deal, if approved, would create the third-largest satellite or cable company in the country and the second-largest Internet provider. 

— Updated at 11:30 a.m.