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Regulation

Comcast Filings Show Merger Confidence

Although the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable is still under regulatory review, that hasn't stopped Comcast from trying to push critical paperwork through ahead of the deal's approval.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) filed a slew of application requests with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wednesday for the transfer of control or assignment of satellite earth station licenses in numerous markets. Most such requests are typical and routine in merger cases and thus draw little attention.

But the most interesting thing about these filings is that they suggest Comcast is confident enough of its proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) to start making operational moves in advance of regulatory approval. The FCC hasn't signed off on these requests, but with the paperwork already filed, it will be easier to do so if and when the merger goes through. A decision from regulators is expected by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

Some of the requests appear to be for transfers from Comcast back to itself. For instance, consider the case of a request for a license transfer from Comcast New Mexico… to Comcast New Mexico.

However, other filings point to Comcast transferring licenses to new entities in markets where the company has agreed to spin off customers if its purchase of Time Warner Cable passes muster. For example, Comcast of Mt. Clemens in Indiana is seeking to transfer its license to Midwest Cable of Muncie. Comcast of Minnesota is looking to do the same with Midwest Cable of Minnesota. Both markets are areas where Comcast plans to divest customers to a new cable entity with Charter Communications Inc. if its deal with Time Warner goes through. (See Charter/Comcast Tap Willner for Spinoff.)

The law firm of Bennet & Bennet noted similar activity from Comcast and Time Warner Cable in April, declaring that "The applicants' filing dismisses various concerns regarding competition." The firm represents cable, telecommunications, and broadcasters, and says its attorneys have experience "working at rural associations such as the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (Opastco) and the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association ."

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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