The Federal Communications Commission has released its schedule for the public and the media industry to weigh in on Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and its complex deal to trade some cable systems with Charter Communications.
Comments and petitions seeking to block Comcast's deals are due on Aug. 25. Comcast will then have until Sept. 23rd to respond to those comments. Subsequent replies to Comcast's response are due on Oct. 8.
Setting the dates for comments starts the FCC's 180-day merger clock to review and either approve or deny the deals. Presuming the FCC doesn't have to delay its process for any reason, that would mean it would issue its verdict in January 2015. The Dept. of Justice is also reviewing the Comcast - Time Warner Cable sale.
Many media watchdog groups and consumer activists have already voiced their intent to strongly oppose Comcast's deals. Earlier this week, satellite broadcaster Dish Network told the FCC that it should block Comcast from buying Time Warner Cable because the acquisition would give the cable giant too much power in the video and broadband marketplace. Netflix has also expressed concern about Comcast's plans.
Comcast has argued in government filings that acquiring Time Warner Cable will be beneficial to consumers and won't harm competition. If Comcast is successful in acquiring Time Warner Cable, it would serve 30% of the nation's cable-TV households and about 40% of homes that have broadband Internet service.
"We fully expect a robust debate, and that's what the FCC process is for," Comcast said, adding, "but we believe that once all the facts are in the record, it will show the significant advantages that bringing these companies together will bring."