Debate continues over whether proposed Comcast merger benefits outweigh the damage

11 March 2015 by Steve Blum
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Not expecting time off for good behavior.

Ten organisations filed comments about a California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge’s proposed decision regarding the Comcast/Time-Warner/Charter Communications mega-merger and market swap. Seven want the deal killed altogether, and argue that the mostly temporary conditions proposed would not offset the damage done to broadband service in California. The Greenlining Institute, a consumer advocacy group, detailed Comcast’s obstreperous response to the draft decision and said

While the proposed conditions are well-intended, they simply cannot rehabilitate a merger which would hand Comcast a potentially permanent monopoly in virtually all of the largest markets in both California and the United States, giving Comcast unprecedented power to raise prices, decrease service quality, and harm consumers. The Commission’s approving these transactions would also set a disturbing precedent for approving any merger, no matter how large or how serious the competitive harms it creates.

On the other hand, three groups like the deal, although they make it clear they’d like it even better with more conditions laid on. The three – the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a lobbying organisation for competitive local exchange carriers and a coalition of minority advocacy groups – focus on specific benefits they and their constituents would realise from the deal, as well as the broader conditions that would apply to consumers generally

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) supports the Proposed Decision (PD), and urges its approval if, and only if, the conditions requiring specific significant public benefits, as clarified and refined by recommendations herein, are adopted…

CETF supports the PD recommendations regarding the offer of a stand-alone Internet service for all customers. We urge the Commission to reinforce this tangible public benefit for all consumers.

CETF further supports all other public benefit conditions set forth in the PD to close the Digital Divide.

Comcast and its proposed partners have a response too; it’s 60 pages and just posted late yesterday – that’s up next.