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Doubt Grows for Fate of Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen and Time Warner Cable Inc., Executive Vice President and CFO Arthur T. Minson Jr. / AP
• January 28, 2015 9:29 am

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The Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger is no longer seen as inevitable, as opponents of the deal have successfully framed it as more than just a merger of two cable operators, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Should the merger succeed, Comcast would become the "gatekeeper of the Internet," opponents say.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"They've had a lot of trouble, more than they thought they would — and rightly so," said Gene Kimmelman, a former top lawyer in the Justice Department's antitrust division who now leads advocacy group Public Knowledge, which opposes the Comcast-TWC merger.

Here's the rub for Kimmelman and others: The new Comcast would be the nation's dominant supplier of high-speed Internet service. The company would boast 30 million customers in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle.

Streaming service Netflix, satellite giant Dish Network, lawmakers and others have voiced concerns that Comcast could use this grip to stifle development of the Internet video business. In a sense, Comcast would have an incentive to beat back online challengers to its core business of bundling cable TV channels.

As the spectrum of Internet-based television services continues to grow, the potential of one company controlling the entire medium becomes a bigger deal.

Netflix reached 39 million subscribers in the U.S. and Amazon.com is spending millions of dollars on original content to bolster its streaming service. Programmers, including HBO and ESPN, have changed their strategy to sell their channels to consumers who don't subscribe to pay TV — essentially providing an alternative to the cable bundle.

Satellite television provider Dish Network this week rolled out its own Internet-delivered programming service called Sling TV, a $20-a-month option that includes ESPN as one of its channels.

"The combination of Comcast and Time-Warner Cable would threaten these over-the-top services," said Jeff Blum, Dish's deputy general counsel. "All of us are united in our position that a Comcast-TWC merger would present substantial harm."

Published under: Comcast, FCC