ACA: Comcast/TWC Conditions Should Last At Least Nine Years

Group Particularly Concerned with Clout over Access to Programming
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The American Cable Association has asked the FCC to impose what it calls "targeted" conditions on the proposed Comcast/time Warner Cable merger and associated Charter system spin-offs for at least nine years, perhaps more, to prevent potential anticompetitive harms.

That came in comments filed for the Dec. 23 reply comment deadline.

The FCC is maintaining the comment cycle, though it has stopped the informal clock on vetting the deal until Jan. 12 and a lawsuit filed by programmers challenging third-party access to deal contracts could delay a decision until the middle of 2015.

ACA is particularly concerned with the number of video subs the combined company and Charter would negotiate on behalf of, which ACA says would increase from 21 million to 31.4 million. Comcast is spinning off some systems to Charter to keep the total sub count below 30 million, but ACA is counting the subs negotiated for on behalf of Bright Nouse Networks and Midcontinent Communications.

ACA wants improved baseball style arbitration and nondiscriminatory access conditions. ACA says Comcast should be prohibited from negotiating programming agreements on behalf of Bright House or Midcontinent and that Charter and Comcast-affiliated programmers should "be prohibited from interfering with a third-party programmer’s ability to provide any prices, terms, or conditions to an MVPD."

The group says those and other conditions should last for nine years, and even then require Comcast and Charter to demonstrate that they are no longer needed.

“ACA’s chief goal is for the FCC to make clear that Comcast- and Charter-affiliated programmers are prohibited from demanding rates, terms, and conditions that are discriminatory or higher than fair-market value from Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs), and that the enforcement mechanisms for these safeguards work, particularly for small and medium-sized MVPDs,” ACA President Matt Polka said in a statement.  “Such remedial conditions have, in the main, provided vital protections to MVPDs in the past, and, with ACA’s recommended improvements, must again be imposed by the FCC in this case.”

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