Three things to expect from Thursday’s Comcast-TWC merger hearing


David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp., testified last month during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

After trying to sell skeptical senators on the deal last month, Comcast is now hoping to convince House lawmakers  that eliminating Time Warner Cable from the market is a good idea. Congress doesn't technically have any control over the merger's approval — that's a decision for the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. But regulators will be closely watching Thursday's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on regulatory reform, commercial and antitrust law. Here are few things to keep an eye out for.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable will argue for the public interest benefits of the deal: The two companies are going to make many of the same arguments that we heard in April, including promises of better Internet service and a more competitive marketplace. What will be telling is how the lawmakers respond to this argument; of the 39 members of the House Judiciary Committee, Comcast has given political donations to 32.

Net neutrality and the open Internet: Given the flurry of activity on net neutrality even in the last few hours, expect Internet policy to be a major subject. Among the list of witnesses is Cogent, a company that lost business as a result of Netflix's recent deal to connect directly with Comcast's network. This may create some fireworks. Cogent will argue that Comcast is trying to double- or even triple-dip by adding more network capacity when a shortage of such capacity was what drove Netflix into the arms of Comcast in the first place.

Revisiting the NBC Universal merger: Allen Grunes, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer, is expected to say that the conditions that applied to Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal — such as a commitment to respect net neutrality and to help promote media diversity — won't be enough to ensure adequate competition in a Comcast deal. "The most comprehensive study to date has shown that merger-specific regulation, like regulation as a whole, often does not work," Grunes says in his prepared testimony.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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Brian Fung · May 8