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FCC Moves to Approve Wasteful Cable Merger, Sticking American Consumers with the Bill

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission today circulated an order to approve Charter Communications’ $90 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

The deal was also approved by the Justice Department. The merger combines the nation’s second-, third- and sixth-largest cable-TV and Internet providers. With this approval just two Internet service providers, Charter and Comcast, would control nearly two-thirds of the nation’s high-speed Internet subscribers.

The FCC is poised to impose three seven-year merger conditions, among other conditions codifying voluntary commitments made by Charter. These are focused on “removing unfair barriers to video competition,” according to a statement from Chairman Tom Wheeler. 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.

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“There’s nothing about this massive merger that serves the public interest. There’s nothing about it that helps make the market for cable TV and Internet services more affordable and competitive for Americans.

“Customers of the newly merged entity will be socked with higher prices as Charter attempts to pay off the nearly $27 billion debt load it took on to finance this deal. The wasted expense of this merger is staggering. 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.

“Thanks to this merger both Charter and Comcast now have unprecedented control over our cable and Internet connections. Their crushing monopoly power will mean fewer choices, higher prices, no accountability and no competition. Conditions won’t lower the monthly bills for those who’ll be hit hardest by these rate hikes: low-income households and communities of color.

“Chairman Wheeler has just tarnished his legacy as head of the FCC. As he nears the end of his term, this wasteful merger undermines his oft-stated priority of ‘competition, competition, competition.’ I guess he decided it was time for a new mantra.”

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