The proposed merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast will face intense scrutiny from government agencies. Our Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto has the story.
Congressional lawmakers were not on Capitol Hill Thursday, but they were already talking about the proposed merger of the nation's two biggest cable companies, Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Time Warner Cable is the parent company of Time Warner Cable News.
"We need to make certain that this acquisition, proposed acquisition by Comcast would preserve, if not improve, service for existing customers and maintain jobs for those who currently work for both companies," said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-New York. The Albany-area congressman sits on one of the House Committees that is likely to scrutinize the deal.
In fact, hearings are expected on both sides of the Capitol, with the chairwoman of a Senate subcommittee focused on antitrust issues announcing that she plans to hold a hearing soon.
Ultimately, however, antitrust regulators at the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission and public interest watchdogs at the Federal Communications Commission will decide whether to sign off on the $45 billion merger.
"I think it's going to be a closely scrutinized merger looked at very carefully," said Seth Bloom, Bloom Strategic Counsel.
Bloom once served as the General Counsel of the Senate's Antitrust Subcommittee. He says the fact that Time Warner Cable and Comcast don't compete in any markets could help their cause before the Justice Department. Already, Comcast is vowing to divest three million subscribers in an effort to appease regulators.
But Bloom warns a fight could erupt at the FCC, when regulators question how the acquisition could impact access to content.
"It can look at whether this will have implications for programmers who want to bring their content online, via the internet," said Bloom.
In its merger with NBC, Comcast pledged not to discriminate against online providers, like Netflix. Comcast also agreed to make its content available to other providers. It's expected this would also apply to the Time Warner Cable deal.
The whole approval process could take at least nine months.