© Greg Nash
The top senators on the Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel are urging the Department of Justice to scrutinize the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger for the possibility that it leads to anticompetitive practices.
The subcommittee's chair, Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Trump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham MORE (R-Utah), and Ranking Member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE pointing to aspects of the deal that they find troubling.
"The proposed transaction raises complex questions that will require a fact-intensive investigation that has yet to be completed, as well as a deep understanding of the economics of the digital content creation and distribution markets," reads the letter.
The senators point to the fact that Time Warner owns popular networks like CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT, and would be in a position to charge more for content from those channels and suppress content from their competitors.
"As a result, AT&T would be both a distributor of and competitor to many content providers (HBO, for example, competes with premium channels such as STARZ and Showtime; CNN competes with MSNBC; and small independent content providers compete with Time Warner’s content)," the letter adds. "AT&T could conclude that it’s beneficial to limit competing content providers’ access to AT&T’s distribution services."
In another letter first reported by The Hill on Friday, AT&T and Time Warner sought to reassure a group of Democratic senators about the merits of the proposed $85 billion deal.
“The merger will allow us to offer customers more attractive bundles of broadband and video services, prodding cable companies and other competitors to respond by improving their own services,” it reads. “And the merger will further incentivize AT&T and other wireless carriers to deploy lightning-fast 5G wireless technology faster and deeper in their networks.”
President Trump took a hard line against the proposal when it was first revealed during the presidential race, but since then he has indicated a willingness to reconsider his stance.