Minnesota senators skeptical of Comcast's Time Warner purchase


Minnesota's U.S. senators are not sold on the idea that selling Time Warner to Comcast will benefit consumers.

Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken each raised concerns Thursday about the proposed $45 billion acquisition that would combine the nation's largest cable TV providers if it's approved by regulators.

Klobuchar chairs an antitrust subcommittee and is promising to hold hearings on the implications of the sale, Minnesota Public Radio reports. In addition to leading the cable market, Comcast and Time Warner are both major providers of broadband Internet and telephone service.

Sen. Al Franken says he has serious reservations about the acquisition and he outlined them in a letter he sent to the Attorney General and the chairs of the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

Franken tells CNN the country needs more competition, not less. He says he's concerned that combining the companies will leave consumers with fewer choices, worse service, and higher bills.

Franken argues Comcast has failed to comply with conditions the FCC put on the company's purchase of NBC Universal in 2011. He says that should give regulators pause before approving the Time Warner deal.

As the Associated Press reports, Comcast maintains its purchase of Time Warner will bring faster, more reliable service to more customers and will cut the costs of television programming. The larger version of Comcast would have 30 million TV customers and 32 million Internet subscribers, the AP says.

Analysts tell the radio show Marketplace the deal is more about broadband than about cable. One says the merged company could challenge streaming services like Netflix because Comcast could steer customers toward its own streams.

As for cable prices, one scholar tells Marketplace they would likely go up because a larger Comcast could play hardball with networks such as ESPN in the negotiations that ultimately determine how much subscribers pay.

In announcing that her subcommittee will hold hearings on the acquisition, Klobuchar said the meetings will "scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition."

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