A group of US senators said the proposed $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Comcast Corporation announced in February would give Comcast inordinate market power to fix broadband prices and determine Internet content.
Comcast is the largest broadband and cable TV provider in the US while Time Warner Cable is the second largest cable TV provider and third largest broadband provider. The proposed deal will merge both companies.
Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said during a hearing the deal creates serious concern about Comcast's ability to set prices in both the broadband and the cable television markets.
The deal is being reviewed by both the US Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice. Senators, however, don't have direct authority to approve or kill the deal.
Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat who opposes the deal, said Comcast's ownership of NBCUniversal gives it an incentive to discriminate against other Web-based content. Comcast made a commitment to follow net neutrality rules as a condition of the NBC deal, but the condition will end in 2018.
"It will not just own those (broadband) pipes, it will also own a bunch of content," Franken said. "Does that give Comcast both the power and the incentive to manipulate Internet traffic in its favor?"
Franken also pointed out that Comcast is a frequent target of customer service complaints.
"I believe this deal will result in fewer choices, higher prices and even worse service for my constituents," he said. "My concern is that as Comcast continues to get even bigger, it will have more power to exercise that leverage to squeeze consumers."