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Dems Seek Wheeler Input On Comcast/TWC, AT&T/DirecTV - Broadcasting & Cable

Dems Seek Wheeler Input On Comcast/TWC, AT&T/DirecTV

Staff memo outlines likely lines of inquiry in May 20 FCC oversight hearing with chairman
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Democratic House Communication Subcommittee staffers have signaled that the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger will be a topic of conversation at the oversight hearing May 20 with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Both the Republican and Democratic memos predate AT&T's Sunday announcement of its planned purchase of DirecTV, which is likely to draw some attention at the hearing, said a Democratic aide. Also look for Title II classification of Internet access to be on the agenda from the Democratic side

The Republican staff memo to members made no mention of the deal, but Dems clearly have concerns. Calling it one of the key issues before the FCC, they talk about the potential competitive harms raised by critics of the deal and their concern about the amount of video programming—it singles out the 29 regional sports nets—and broadband access subs the new company would have.

FCC commissioners and chairmen are historically reluctant to discuss mergers pending before them, though have been known to talk in broad strokes about competition theory or their general regulatory philosophy, which Wheeler often boils down to "competition, competition, competition," with a focus on impact on consumers.

According to a copy of the Democratic memo, they share Republican interest in talking with Wheeler about network neutrality, the incentive auctions, spectrum aggregation limits—all subjects of high-profile FCC actions last week—and media ownership issues.

Unlike the Republican staffers, the Democrats raise the issues of joint retransmission consent, unlicensed spectrum and E-rate reforms, but not the general FCC process reforms Republicans have some issues with.

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