Comcast fights for fast track merger approval in California

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Broadband is out of bounds for the California Public Utilities Commission, according to a private pitch made to the CPUC by a Comcast staff lobbyist and a trio of lawyers representing Comcast, Time-Warner and Charter. They want the CPUC to limit its review of the companies’ proposed massive merger and market swap to a very restricted evaluation of the telephone service aspects of the deal. And ignore the near monopoly control over the cable television market and the commanding position in Internet services Comcast would gain in California.

In a required disclosure document filed last week, the four were said to have…

…encouraged the Commission to limit its review of the transactions consistent with the Commission’s jurisdiction over telecommunications services within California. The Joint Applicants also indicated that if the Commission were nonetheless inclined to review the broadband aspects of the transaction that it do so within the [current, narrow proceeding] (as opposed to in a separate investigation).

They were trying to refute protests made by DISH Network and several advocacy groups, including the CPUC’s office of ratepayer advocates

Clearly, the “advanced telecommunications capability” referenced in [federal law] is within the CPUC’s subject matter jurisdiction, consistent with [the state law limiting the CPUC’s authority over Internet services]. Because [federal law] both requires and expressly delegates the CPUC to encourage the deployment of advanced services, including broadband…the CPUC must review the proposed merger.

This mega-deal would bring about exactly the kind of anti-competitive stranglehold on an essential utility that led to the creation of the CPUC in the first place. State regulation of natural monopolies came about as a reaction to Southern Pacific’s 19th century dominance of Californian rail lines, which was built and maintained via lavish spending on politicians in Sacramento. Just like Comcast.