Dish Blitzes FCC With Block Comcast/TWC Message

Ergen Meets With Dozens Of Officials To Press Point

The clock may be stopped on the FCC's review of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, but Dish Network gave the commission a lot to chew on this week.

In what amounted to a full-court press, Dish execs, led by chairman Charlie Ergen, met with a laundry list of FCC officials Oct. 21-22 (more than three dozen on  Oct. 21 alone) either in person or by phone asking them not to approve the deal, which it has formally requested in a petition to deny. The officials included commissioners and bureau chiefs and bureau staffers as well as special counsels and advisors.

The pitch emphasized what they said would be the combined company's control of half the broadband pipes with speeds sufficient to provide the 25 Mbps that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has suggested are the new table stakes for defining access to high-speed broadband.

Dish suggested that both companies are working on over-the-top services that would otherwise compete if they did not merge.

"Since Comcast and TWC are on independent trajectories toward offering nationally distributed OTT services outside of their respective cable footprints, TWC will compete head-to-head with Comcast absent the merger," they told the commission, according to an ex parte filing, "and, importantly, they would need to rely on each other’s broadband pipes to provide nationwide OTT services, thus providing each company with an incentive to keep their respective pipes open. If the merger is approved, however, the combined companies would offer only a single OTT service, or perhaps forego altogether launching a nationwide OTT service, thus depriving consumers of important competitive choices."

Dish said no conditions can remedy the competitive harms of the deal.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have said the deal will not reduce competition for broadband service since the two do not compete. Cable operators traditionally have built their business on exclusive franchises given the cost of duplicating plant to overbuild competitors.