Executives from Comcast and NY1's parent company, Time Warner Cable, were on Capitol Hill Wednesday defending the proposed merger of the nation's two largest cable companies. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.
Wednesday's three-hour hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee kicks into high gear the federal government's review of the proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable by Comcast, the nation's largest cable and Internet provider.
"Competition in the cable industry is one of most critical issues that this committee faces for a very simple reason: cable is the primary way Americans get pay TV and broadband Internet access," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Washington lawmakers and federal regulators are scrutinizing the deal over concerns that a takeover would reduce competition and lead to poor service and higher prices for customers.
"I can make you and the members of this committee one absolute commitment, which is that there's nothing in this transaction that will cause anyone's cable bills to go up," said David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corporation. "I have a nasty little habit of telling the truth, and when I was asked, 'Are people's cable bills going to go down?' I said, 'I can't make that commitment.'"
The hearing comes a day after Comcast filed a merger application with the Federal Communications Commission. In its filing, Comcast said it needs to get bigger to contend with growing competition from Netflix, Google, Apple and other tech giants.
"The transaction will allow the combined company to bring next-generation video, broadband and voice services to customers faster than either company could do on its own," said Arthur Minson Jr., chief financial officer of Time Warner Cable.
One of the most vocal opponents during Wednesday's Senate hearing was the one Senator who knows a bit about the TV industry, Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota.
"We are here to question whether this deal is good for competition and whether it's in the public interest," Franken said. "I'm against this deal because I believe it does not meet either test."
If the deal is approved, the merged companies would reach nearly one-third of the nation's cable customers.
"I think the main takeaway that consumers should have is that this deal, this transaction, is very consumer-friendly," Minson said.
Federal regulators are expected to issue their decision by the end of the year.