Comcast argues benefits of Time Warner Cable deal

WASHINGTON — Comcast Corp. on Tuesday presented its case to government regulators arguing that its $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc. will benefit consumers without limiting competition.

The company filed hundreds of pages of documents with the Federal Communications Commission after filing a notice Monday with the Justice Department.

On Wednesday, Comcast Corp. executive vice president David Cohen will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing to review the impact of the merger on consumers.

Comcast says the acquisition will allow it to boost Internet speeds for Time Warner Cable. The filing also says the company will provide better video-on-demand service and broaden its commitment to “Net neutrality” — the idea that Internet providers should not discriminate against Web traffic depending on its source.

Comcast has agreed to not discriminate against any traffic in its network through 2018 as a condition of its $30 billion purchase of NBCUniversal, which was completed last year. The company vowed to maintain the commitment despite a federal appeals court decision that struck down the FCC-imposed rules in January.

Comcast says pay-TV alternatives like streaming services from Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and others have created competition in video, while there is at least one broadband Internet competitor in more than 98 percent of its markets.

“Comcast and Time Warner Cable do not compete against each other in any area. So this transaction will not result in any reduction in consumer choice in any market,” said Cohen on a conference call with journalists Tuesday.

Cohen also responded to calls by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to extend “Net neutrality” protections to the so-called “interconnection” area between major Internet backbone providers such as Comcast. In February, the two companies reached a deal in which Netflix pays Comcast to ensure its video streams faster and more consistently to Comcast subscribers. But Hastings said last month that the fee amounts to an “arbitrary tax” to companies like Comcast that act as gatekeepers to their networks.

Cohen said the market for interconnection is “not at all impacted by this transaction” although the deal will give it about a third of the market for all Internet subscribers nationwide.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last week that while rules governing the “interconnection” between Internet backbone providers are not part of its current review of open Internet rules, the agency is monitoring the space to see if action is needed in another context. Wheeler’s comments leave open the possibility that the FCC could impose conditions on interconnection deals as part of its merger review process.

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