House Dem warns Comcast merger is ‘tipping point’

Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is coming under new fire from Capitol Hill.

The $45 billion deal to combine the nation’s two largest cable companies is a “tipping point” for the market, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday, which “would encourage a market that is not free, but one that limits innovation, diversity of programming and competition.”

{mosads}“It is bad for consumers, will harm competition, will lead to less diverse content and more expensive cable and internet access, and will eliminate good jobs in California,” he said in a event in California organized by the Writers Guild of America West, according to prepared remarks. 

Cárdenas has been skeptical of the merger for months, but declined to officially call for regulators to block it until Wednesday. 

In particular, he has worried that the company — which would be in 19 of the nation’s top 20 markets if the deal is approved — could unfairly promote its own services and push smaller channels out of business.

In recent days, he has raised concerns about Comcast’s dispute with Estrella, a Spanish-language station that claims it has been bullied by Comcast.

Comcast has defended the proposed merger and denied accusations that the deal would make it harder for smaller TV channels to make their way into people’s living rooms. Additionally, Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t compete in any of the same markets, executives often repeat, so no customer would lose an option for cable TV or Internet service as a direct result of the merger.

In a response to Cárdenas’s comments on Wednesday, the company noted that many lawmakers and community leaders have urged egulators to approve the deal, which it said would lead to a host of benefits for consumers. 

“The Comcast-Time Warner Cable transaction has undisputed benefits for consumers — including faster Internet speeds, better video products, broadband programs for low-income Americans, more competition for small businesses, and better diversity practices, including more diverse programming for consumers,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. 

The dispute with Estrella is unrelated to the merger, the spokeswoman added, while accusing the TV station of “seeking to advance its own business interests in an attempt to game the merger review process.”

Still, the obstacles appear to be mounting for the merger’s approval. Multiple analysts have downgraded their outlook for the merger, and growing public sentiment against the deal isn’t helping.  

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Tags Comcast Time Warner Cable Tony Cardenas

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