WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has forced a collection of high-profile companies’ hand on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, but not without some individual plausible deniability.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) came out — was more like “outed” — as an opponent of the merger.
The CCIA includes Microsoft, Facebook, Google, eBay, Dish Network, Sprint, T-Mobile and others. But the trade group’s opposition was described as an “aggregate view” of its members, rather than attributable to any one of them.
“It is often difficult for individual companies to voice their concerns in competition investigations for fear of harming current or prospective business relationships,” the CCIA said.
The CCIA did not publicize its position. It came to light in a letter to Franken, who had asked the group to weigh in following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the deal.
The CCIA is concerned with access to last-mile broadband, saying the merger would lead to less competition and make competitive entry less likely. It has also argued that a combined Comcast-TWC would be “better able to impede innovation that threatens to erode its legacy cable business model,” meaning it could discriminate against online competitors.
The CCIA’s conclusion was that the FCC and Justice Department “should block this merger, not only for the good of innovation, the Internet industry, and of consumers; but also for the sanctity of antitrust law itself.”
Comcast said the letter was off base.
“Every market Comcast operates in is highly competitive, and we compete actively every day against some of CCIA’s members,” Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast vice president of government communications, said. “The size of this deal is not unprecedented — in fact, after the deal, Comcast will have the same market share as it had throughout most of the first decade of the 21st century.”