WASHINGTON -- According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Politico, Federal Communications Commission staff may be prepared to recommend that Comcast’s proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable be designated for a hearing. Such a move would put the merger request in the hands of an administrative law judge, who would conduct a thorough inquiry into the public-interest benefits of the proposed merger, if any.
In formal legal terms a hearing designation merely means that the FCC cannot approve the proposed $45 billion merger at this time without first conducting such a hearing. In practical terms however, this type of preliminary decision generally spells the end for the deal because of the difficulty applicants face to make their case in such proceedings.
Today's report follows a Bloomberg News report last week that regulators at the Department of Justice were skeptical of the deal as well.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
"If the news from the FCC is true, it would mean that Internet users can breathe a sigh of relief. Designating the deal for a hearing would make Comcast and Time Warner Cable go through a lengthy evidentiary procedure. That's a very high hurdle to clear in its own right, and a huge barrier to overcome for a disastrous deal like this one, which has no real public interest benefits to show.
"The FCC seems to have heard the nearly one million Americans who have told Washington that the proposed merger helps only the people in the executive suites of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. These executives failed to see the reality that was plain to all of the deal's many opponents. Giving so much control over our communications system to one company — especially one with a track record of spiraling prices, terrible customer service and blocking Internet content — would be a terrible mistake.
"Americans don't need a bigger Comcast; they need more choices for affordable and open broadband services nationwide. The rejection of this merger would reflect the FCC and the DOJ's renewed commitment to competition and consumer protection. The tens of millions of dollars that Comcast has spent on bankers, lawyers and lobbyists to push this ill-advised merger would have been better spent improving customer service and offering affordable high-speed fiber-to-the-home."