Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wrote Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski Friday to express his concerns about the Comcast/NBCU merger, particularly what he said was its potential to raise cable rates.
The FCC is widely believed to be wrapping up vetting of the deal and is expected to okay it with a number of conditions, both ones it has agreed to and others the FCC will likely impose on program access, including online.
"Fundamentally, I worry that a media merger of this size has the potential to leave consumers with lesser programming and higher rates," Rockefeller wrote, according to a copy of the letter supplied to Multichannel News. "It would be unacceptable for a transaction like this to lead to further consumer cable rate increases."
Rockefeller suggested the FCC should impose some open Internet conditions. "With this level of integration comes the capacity of combined Comcast and NBC to favor its own content by degrading or blocking online distribution of
programming by competitors. As a result, the commission should carefully review the potential for these harms and,
consistent with policies promoting an open Internet, protect consumer choice in the burgeoning online video market."
But Rockefeller also had some nice things to say about both companies. "I was pleased to see that Comcast and NBC have committed to preserve and enrich the production of local news, public affairs, and other public interest
programming." He also said he was pleased that the companies had committed to more children's programming.
"With respect to rates," he said, "I worry that the cost of cable service is growing too high too fast." He also
cited his long-standing desire for cable operators to offer channels in smaller packages "that better reflect the
channels consumers want to watch."
It is unclear whether the FCC will finish its review before year's end. At press time on Friday, commissioners had not seen a draft of any decision.