Democratic Lawmakers Demand Renewal of NBC-Comcast Merger Restrictions

February 26, 2018
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article by Christina W. author
Two Democratic lawmakers are demanding the renewal of restrictions against global telecommunications conglomerate Comcast. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mignon Clyburn (commissioner at the FCC) believe that letting the restrictions expire will lead to Comcast abusing power and hurting competitors.

This comes seven years after the $30 billion mega-merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal, the behemoth company has been freed from the temporary rules the Federal Communications Commission imposed to prevent it from discriminating against its competitors, the lawmakers wrote. “Whether you’re a TV consumer, another cable company or a content provider, there’s good reason to be concerned,” the lawmakers wrote.

Several Democrats believe that the upcoming expiration and the repeal of net neutrality will allow internet service providers, like Comcast, to dictate the importance of content online. In order to prevent this, the officials are asking the Federal Communications Commission to extend the conditions or create new ones to prevent Comcast, and other ISPs, from favoring their own content or hindering the creation and promotion of its competitors.

“This past October, the American Cable Association, a group of small and medium-sized cable providers, complained to the FCC that Comcast-NBCU was preventing rivals of its regional sports networks from offering their customers a basic broadcast tier at fair prices. And in December, further complaints were lodged by RCN, a regional cable, telephone, and internet provider that directly competes with Comcast in many markets,” the duo continued.

The contesting Democrats admit that the market for cable networks and videos has changed immensely since the merger. Consumers are now able to choose from several online streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Sling TV. However, they also believe that the Justice Department should work to prevent the cable giant from giving their own video service an unfair advantage by withholding services from their new-age competitors. They went on to say that the United States Justice Department had similar concerns due to actions after AT&T considered merging with Time Warner Cable. The department spoke adamantly against the merger and went on to file a lawsuit that blocked the $85 billion deal. Blumenthal also asked the Justice Department to monitor the effects of the merger’s conditions expiring.

A Comcast spokesperson denied their need to compete unfairly with competitors and claims that the companies have fulfilled their obligations listed under the merger conditions. The spokesperson also went to say that officials have no reason to extend restrictions that were created in 2011.

“The FCC conditions on the NBCUniversal transaction have expired,” the spokesperson. “There was no credible basis to pursue an extension or modification of the consent decree or conditions. For seven years during a time of rapid change in the video and broadband markets, Comcast met or exceeded all of the commitments and obligations under the deal.”

The United States Justice Department has not commented on the lawmaker’s demands.

 

Source: The Hill/ Bloomberg

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