A PYMNTS Company

US: Charter-Time Warner critics join forces to fight merger

 |  January 24, 2016

Telecom companies including Dish Network, along with trade and advocacy groups, launched a coalition on Thursday to oppose a pair of proposed cable deals they claim would control broadband access to nearly 90 percent of homes in the US and damage options for consumers.

The Stop Mega Cable Coalition argues that regulators should reject the pair of mergers proposed by Charter Communications, which would make it the second-largest video and broadband provider in the US. The new coalition argues on its site that the combined company would have the incentive and ability to “undermine new and emerging streaming video services, starve out independent programmers and worsen customer service, all while raising prices.”

Charter Communications proposed in March to buy Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion — a move that would affect 23.9 million cable broadband customers in 41 states. In May, Charter moved to merge with Time Warner Cable for an additional $55 billion, potentially affecting 20 million more pay TV, Internet and phone subscribers.

The Stop Mega Cable Coalition includes industry groups such as U.S. Telecom and the NTCA rural broadband group, along with advocacy groups including Common Cause and Public Knowledge. This coalition resembles the partnership that successfully opposed Comcast’s bid to purchase Time Warner Cable, which the Federal Communications Commission signaled would have given the combined company too much power and could have stifled consumer interests. The Stop Mega Cable Coalition fears that if the Charter proposals are approved then Comcast and the new combined company would form a de facto duopoly that would lower incentives to improve consumer services.

“If you thought cable prices and customer service were bad today, just wait until just two cable companies control the vast majority of the nation’s high-speed broadband market,” the coalition states.

The National Association of Broadcasters has also argued that the FCC should not approve the proposed deals before reviewing media ownership rules. The trade association said in its petition that if Charter’s deals are approved then the top four pay-TV operators would control 79 percent of the nation’s subscribers, making it harder for broadcasters to sell advertising.

Full content: International Business Times

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.