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Al Franken Ups Ante on Multi-Billion Dollar Comcast Deal, Calls on Heavyweight Ally


"My concern is that Comcast will be able to use its clout in the broadband distribution market to obtain an anticompetitive advantage in the content market."

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., eats lunch with Meadow Lake Elementary School students, Monday, March 17, 2014 in New Hope, Minn. According to the Star Tribune, Franken is resurrecting his proposal to pay for hot school lunches for students who get reduced-priced meals. “We should really be committed to making sure kids don’t go hungry at school,” Franken said in an interview with the Star Tribune. "It's just wrong." (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores) AP Photo/Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores\n


Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has loudly opposed Comcast’s proposed $45 billion buyout of Time Warner Cable, arguing that the merger could create an unfair competitive advantage for the media giant.

But the former Saturday Night Live writer really upped the ante Wednesday, formally calling on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, to weigh in on the issue.

“My concern is that Comcast will be able to use its clout in the broadband distribution market to obtain an anticompetitive advantage in the content market,” Franken said in a letter to Hastings. “Comcast can achieve this by blocking, degrading, raising costs for or otherwise interfering with unaffiliated content that relies on Comcast’s distribution network to reach consumers.”

If Comcast’s deal manages to win congressional approval, the two largest cable providers in the U.S. will combine to hand Comcast control of more than half of American cable subscribers.

“I am not alone in my concerns. When Comcast acquired NBCUniversal, the FCC noticed the unprecedented nature of Comcast’s vertical integration and concluded that it would ‘increase Comcast’s incentive to discriminate against unaffiliated content and distributors in its exercise of control over consumers’ broadband connections,’” the letter reads.

“Those concerns were appropriate when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal a few years ago; they are heightened significantly now that Comcast seeks to acquire Time Warner Cable,” it added.

Franken is not the only senator who’s concerned about the deal.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in a hearing earlier this month noted that the proposed merger could hand Comcast the power to block conservative political media.

“This is an extremely large transaction, affecting both the video market and the Internet market,” Lee said. “A complicating factor arises given that Comcast owns NBC Universal.”

“Considering the significant share of the video and Internet market that the new Comcast would have, and considering the well-known political leanings of NBC, I’ve heard concerns that Comcast might have the incentive and the ability to discriminate against certain political content, including, for example, conservative political content,” he said, adding that the capacity to do this “could be significantly enhanced as a result of this transaction.”

Franken also invited Hastings to testify before Congress on how Netflix views the proposed Comcast merger.

Hastings has not yet formally responded.

“If Franken succeeds in getting Netflix to weigh in against the merger then it will be a savvy public relations move since there is little chance that two of the most disliked companies in the United States stand a chance against the company behind House of Cards,” BGR reported, referencing the popular Washington-themed show.

Here’s a copy of Franken’s letter:

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

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