The Obama administration has given the green light for Charter Communications to complete its $90 billion takeover of two other major cable providers, a move which critics warn will grant the Internet giant "crushing monopoly power" to drive up prices and control bandwidth, with almost no accountability or competition.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday circulated an order to approve Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
The merger will combine the nation’s second-, third-, and sixth-largest cable-TV and Internet service providers (ISPs) and effectively place two-thirds of the nation's high-speed Internet subscribers under the authority of just two corporations, Charter and Comcast.
"Thanks to this merger both Charter and Comcast now have unprecedented control over our cable and Internet connections," declared Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the press freedom and open internet advocacy group Free Press. "Their crushing monopoly power will mean fewer choices, higher prices, no accountability and no competition."
The approval was granted despite the fact that over 300,000 public comments were submitted to the FCC opposing the merger. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are among the public officials who have raised "significant concerns" over the deal.
Following the announcement, both Wheeler and Charter said that the deal was approved with set of supposedly "consumer-friendly" conditions.
As Free Press explains, "The merged entity would not be permitted to charge usage-based prices, to impose data caps, or to charge interconnection fees to services including online video providers that deliver large volumes of Internet traffic to broadband customers."
But, public interest groups warn that customers, particularly low-income households and communities of color, will be left to pay the bill from the "wasteful merger," which includes a $27 billion loan Charter took on to finance the deal.
"The wasted expense of this merger is staggering," Aaron said. "For the money Charter spent to make this happen it could have built new competitive broadband options for tens of millions of people. Now these billions of dollars will do little more than line the pockets of Time Warner Cable’s shareholders and executives. CEO Rob Marcus will walk away with a $100 million golden parachute."