US: American Antitrust Institute enters Comcast/TWC debate

The American Antitrust Institute has issued a paper to announce its position regarding the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, reports say.

The AAI released its paper, Rolling Up Video Distribution in the US: Why the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger Should Be Blocked, to call attention to the competition issues that will arise from the $45 billion cable merger. Authored by AAI member Diana Moss, the paper claims that one of Comcast’s top defenses for why the merger would preserve competition is not sufficient.

Comcast agreed to certain measures when it merged with NBC Universal, completed in 2009, including the notion of net neutrality, in which Comcast promised not to prioritize content delivery of one content provider over another.

Comcast has said that its acquiring of TWC would not harm competition because those concessions from the 2009 acquisition, including its net neutrality promise, would extend to TWC.

But the AAI’s Moss says those promises are not enough, and that there remain “specific competitive problems, including how a merged Comcast-TWC could exercise buyer market power against content and middle-market service providers and potentially exclude rivals in content and video distribution markets.

AAI President Bert Foer agrees, telling reporters that the merger “doesn’t pass the cost-benefit test.”

Comcast is looking to acquire its competitor in a major merger that comes in the midst of several high-profile, high-stakes telecommunications deals. Experts say the transactions will test the powers and agenda of the Federal Communications Commission, as well as federal antitrust regulators.

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