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AT&T, Comcast defend merger - Broadcasting & Cable

AT&T, Comcast defend merger

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While the proposed $72 billion merger of AT&T Broadband and Comcast
Corp. does not violate any existing antitrust guidelines, senators still are
concerned that allowing the creation of another media behemoth will harm
consumers, they said during a hearing before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee
Tuesday.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), the panel's ranking member, pressed the Federal
Communications Commission to "thoroughly examine cable ownership limits and
establish an appropriate limit that would ensure healthy competition and a
diverse marketplace. If they can't do it, then Congress will need to take a look
at it."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit one year ago struck down an
FCC rule that limits cable companies to owning only as many cable operators as
cover 30 percent of the nation's homes.

Committee
chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) said he is worried about consumers.

"Ten years from now, if trends like this merger continue, consumers may find
almost all of their personal communications and information dominated by very
few large media companies. Their phone, their movies, their Internet, their
cable, their link to the outside world will be priced, processed and packaged
for them by one company that faces virtually no competition."

And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said the merger raises questions around "potential limitations on
consumers' access to rich and diverse content."

Comcast president Brian Roberts and AT&T Corp. chairman C. Michael
Armstrong fended off these concerns, saying that merging will allow the new
company to bring more competition and better offerings in local telephony and
high-speed Internet access.

"Combining these two companies and drawing on the special strengths and
capabilities and resources of each will ensure that more Americans have access
to more digital services and features, sooner," Roberts said.

"The merger creates a unique opportunity to accelerate the development and
widespread deployment of facilities-based local telephony and broadband
services," Armstrong said.

"By uniting two companies with remarkably complementary
assets, this merger will bring more digital video, data and voice services and
features to more Americans more quickly than would be possible without the
merger," Armstrong added.

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