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Dish tells FCC to block Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal

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Dish Network tells FCC to block Comcast's deal to buy Time Warner Cable

Satellite broadcaster Dish Network wants the government to block Comcast Corp.'s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable.

In meetings with top Federal Communications Commission officials earlier this week, Dish said a combination of Comcast and Time Warner Cable "presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied."

The details of the meetings were revealed in an FCC filing by Dish.

Dish, led by Chairman Charlie Ergen, told the FCC that "there do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger." Dish made its case to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Ajit Pai, Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O'Rielly.

Among Dish's concerns are the leverage a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable would have in negotiating distribution deals with content suppliers. If approved, Comcast would see its video subscriber base grow from about 22 million to 30 million homes. It would also be the dominant video supplier in several major markets, including New York and Los Angeles.

"A combined Comcast-TWC will be able to exercise its enormous size to leverage programming content in anti-competitive ways," Dish said. The result of such leverage would be smaller distributors such as Dish having to pay more for their content.

Dish also said acquiring Time Warner Cable would give Comcast too much power over the Internet and the ability to stifle new online video services that might try to compete against it.

"Comcast-TWC will have at least three 'choke points' in the broadband pipe where it can harm competing video services: the last mile 'public Internet' channel to the consumer; the interconnection point; and any managed or specialized service channels, which can act as high-speed lanes and squeeze the capacity of the public Internet portion of the pipe," Dish told the FCC. "Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the online video offerings of its competitors."

A Comcast spokeswoman responded, “as our filings have shown, every market we operate in is highly competitive. Dish has long been one of our most vigorous competitors, and unlike us has a national footprint available in tens of millions of more homes than a combined Comcast –Time Warner Cable.” The spokeswoman added that Dish “not wanting stronger competitors isn’t surprising and it isn’t new.”

In addition to its worries about Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Dish said AT&T's proposed purchase of satellite broadcaster DirecTV also "presents competitive concerns." Dish had flirted with merging with DirecTV for many years, including as recently as this last spring, but ultimately, DirecTV chose to partner with AT&T.

Dish joins smaller cable operators and Netflix in voicing concerns about the Comcast-Time Warner Cable marriage. Some programmers have also worried about the ability of Comcast to squeeze them for lower fees.

Media watchdogs and consumer groups have also raised red flags about both deals, saying the end result will be less choice for video and broadband and higher bills.

The FCC, along with the Justice Department, are tasked with reviewing both the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal and AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV.

Twitter: @JBFlint

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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