FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and Christine Varney, head of the DoJ's antitrust division, didn't hint at any possible conditions that might be imposed on the merger, but Genachowski noted that the Commission began its review on March 5 and that it will soon seek comments on the proposed deal.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said she's against the merger, calling out NBC's decision to allow access to some Web-based programming from the Winter Olympics to consumers who subscribe to one of the network's subscription TV partners, while others were left wanting. "At this point, I can't support the merger," she said. "Seattle is very concerned about what happened during the Olympics." (See NBC Walls Off Olympics.)
Comcast chief Brian Roberts was there to defend the deal and once again tried to simmer concerns that that the purchase might "incentivize us or cause us to raise rates." He also said Comcast has no intention to change NBC's relationship with online video hub Hulu LLC .
In other testimony, WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) president Coleen Abdoulah reissued a warning that the market power of a Comcast-NBCU union would cause rates to rise for both consumers and smaller cable operators. (See Comcast CEO: We Won’t Block Rivals.)
"Post-merger, we would be negotiating with one consolidated entity with much greater leverage to extract higher fees from operators and consumers," said Abdoulah, who is also a board member of the American Cable Association (ACA) , an organization that represents about 900 Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable operators. "We are going to pay substantially more for the same programming we distribute today if this merger is approved without conditions, and we will have little choice but to pass this on to consumers," she said.
Here's a quick roundup of other policy news making the rounds:
The petition comes ahead of more expected retrans negotiations and days after the much publicized retransmission consent battle between Cablevision and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) 's WABC-TV station in New York.
Chairman Genachowski has already alluded to some of those goals, including "100 Squared," an initiative that calls for the delivery of 100-Mbit/s services to 100 million homes by 2020. (See FCC Chair Sets 2020 Broadband Vision .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable