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Dish Petitions FCC to Deny Comcast/Time Warner Cable Union

25 Aug, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Dish Network Aug. 25 petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to deny the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, citing “irreparable harm” to competition and consumers if the deal is consummated.

No. 1 cable operator Comcast in February offered $45 billion for No. 2 Time Warner Cable — a transaction that not only combines the country’s biggest cable operators, it would consolidate two major ISPs. Both issues are at the center of review by federal regulators.

The issues are also at the heart of Dish’s petition, which claims the merger could significantly damage competitive development of over-the-top (OTT) video and limit consumer access to online video programming.

Dish, of course, is attempting to broaden its satellite operations by partnering with third-party content developers such as The Walt Disney Co., and rolling out branded OTT video platforms.

The satellite operator, in a filing, echoed strategy employed by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings that suggests a combined a Comcast/TWC would stymie technology and the Internet. Specifically, Dish claims Comcast and TWC could put up “choke” points on their broadband networks that would degrade the quality of streaming video to subscribers.

Indeed, Netflix reluctantly agreed to pay Comcast and other major ISPs extra fees to ensure its video streams would be delivered more smoothly to its subscribers along broadband networks.

Dish said Comcast could impose arbitrary data caps on competing multichannel video program distributors and OTT video services. The satellite operator said Comcast could also restrict access to, or raise the fees of its affiliated programing to thwart competing services, among other issues.

"The rapid rise of broadband-powered online video services has been great for consumers. In many ways, we are in the Golden Age of video. But this Golden Age risks being cut short by the proposed transaction,” Dish said in a statement regarding the proposed Comcast/TWC union.

The satellite operator said Comcast’s claimed economic benefits in the deal do not “come close” to outweighing the anti-competitive effects. It believes should the FCC  approve the merger under a set of conditions designed to undermine potential harms, and those safeguards fail to work (which Dish strongly believes would be the case), competition and consumers would be permanently harmed.

“The cost of ‘getting it wrong’ is immense,” Dish wrote. “The only outcome that will serve the public interest is to deny the merger or designate it for hearing.”

Regardless of Dish's filing, Comcast Aug. 26, citing heightened regulatory scrutiny, said it now expects to close its acquisition of TWC in 2015; not this year.


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