Momentum builds against merger as Comcast faces new hurdles

By Michael McCauley on Friday, January 30th, 2015

When Comcast announced its plans almost a year ago to merge with Time Warner Cable, most industry experts said the takeover plan would almost certainly be approved by federal regulators.

But now the mega merger’s prospects are far from certain.   In recent weeks, articles in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times have highlighted how the merger that once seemed inevitable is increasingly in doubt.

The momentum has shifted following one Comcast customer service PR misstep after another while opposition to the merger has grown louder.  Earlier this week, the news broke that Comcast has been ghostwriting many of the letters from politicians who pledged their support for the merger.  So much for the groundswell of local support Comcast has been touting all year long.

By the end of last year, nearly 600,000 Americans had filed comments urging the Federal Communications Commission to reject the merger.  Around the same time, Consumers Union joined the recently formed Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, made up of consumer groups, private companies, labor unions, and industry associations united against the deal.  This joint effort has helped to focus opposition efforts and demonstrate how damaging the merger would be.

The latest hurdle facing Comcast is the decision this week by the FCC to update its definition of broadband to cover download speeds of at least 25 Mbps.  That’s up from the FCC’s previous outdated definition of 4 Mbps.

It’s no surprise that Comcast was adamantly opposed to the FCC’s move.  After all, the cable giant has been relying on the FCC’s old standard to claim that there’s plenty of competition for broadband and that it would gain only 35 percent of the market if the merger is approved.  But under the new definition, Comcast would control over half of the broadband market across the country.

“The FCC’s action today shines a bright light on the fact that three out of four Americans have only one choice when it comes to speeds of over 25 Mbps:  their local cable monopoly,” said Susan Crawford, the co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  For most broadband customers, that’s Comcast.

The merger with Time Warner Cable would give Comcast even greater national reach, discouraging competition and the kind of innovation that could bring about more affordable broadband options.  That’s a big reason why we need to keep up the pressure to block this lousy deal.

You can help by encouraging your lawmakers in Congress to speak out against the merger.  Click here for the phone numbers of your House and Senate members.  Let’s keep the momentum against the merger growing!

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