Franken sees ‘new hope’ that feds will block Comcast deal

Franken sees ‘new hope’ that feds will block Comcast deal
© Greg Nash

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAl Franken blasts Susan Collins: She'll let Trump 'get away with anything' Bill Press: Don't forget about Amy Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far MORE appears optimistic that regulators could step in to block Comcast’s $45 billion proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.

After new reports emerged that Department of Justice lawyers were leaning toward recommending a lawsuit to block the deal, the Minnesota Democrat wrote an op-ed in TechCrunch pressing for regulators to follow through.

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Along with tough net neutrality rules out of the Federal Communications Commission, which is also tasked with reviewing the merger, Franken thinks public pressure might be in his favor.

The “FCC’s decision on net neutrality has given me new hope that, with a loud enough movement — with enough people like you organizing online, calling your members of Congress and writing to the FCC and DOJ — we might just be able to win another uphill battle,” he wrote on the tech news site. “We might just be able to stop this deal before Comcast gains even more power to pad their profits at consumers’ expense.”

Franken has been one of Congress’s biggest critics of the Comcast merger, which would combine the nation’s top two cable companies into a “telecom behemoth unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” he wrote on Monday.

“This colossus of a company would have unmatched power to destroy its competition, abuse its customers and bully the government agencies charged with regulating it.”

Critics of the deal say a combined company would have unprecedented ability to push out competitors both on cable TV and over the Internet. Because Comcast also owns NBC Universal, opponents of the merger warn it could prioritize its own content over others.

Company officials have remained optimistic about review of the merger, which they hope will be concluded by this summer. The deal will allow Comcast to bring new services to more people all across the country, they insist, and would not violate any antitrust rules.

Regulatory oversight is certainly heating up. On Wednesday, company officials are reportedly set to meet with Justice Department lawyers to discuss possible concessions for the first time since the deal was announced more than a year ago.

That meeting could turn into the final strategy session for salvaging the merger — or it could be the beginning of the end for the deal’s hopes.