Dish to FCC: Comcast Deal Would Cause Competitors ‘Irreparable Harm’

Deal approval called “lethal” to cable rivals’ hopes to launch web platforms

Dish Network is insisting on its opposition to Comcast’s deal to buy Time Warner Cable, telling the FCC the deal would cause “irreparable harm” to the entertainment industry and consumers while providing “no discernible benefits.”

“Everyone who likes to watch high-quality online video has particular reason to worry about the proposed merger,” Jeff Blum, Dish’s SVP and deputy general counsel, said in a statement on Monday. “More than 54 percent of the country’s high-speed broadband connections would be controlled by the combined company, and all online video distributors would be at the mercy of Comcast-TWC.”

Dish’s comments came as the FCC announced on Monday that it was postponing its internal deadline for review of Comcast’s deal by three weeks because Comcast had incorrectly categorized 7,000 documents the FCC had requested as being exempt from disclosure under attorney-client privilege. The delay means that the FCC now has until the end of February to decide on the deal.

The commission requested the documents be produced by Sept. 11, but they weren’t until were produced until Dec. 10-11.

The FCC said the delayed availability of the documents is forcing the agency to run additional searches through all documents and reconsider analyses the staff thought were complete. The FCC called the magnitude of Comcast’s errors “material” and said Comcast’s delays in resolving them were so “substantial” they “interfered with the commission’s ability to conduct a prompt and thorough review” of the deal.

Dish, along with consumer groups, the Writers Guild of America, Discovery Communications and Netflix are among those opposing Comcast’s deal. Monday’s comments came as Dish responded to arguments the FCC heard earlier from Comcast and its supporters urging the deal to be approved. Comcast and other groups are expected to file their comments later Monday or Tuesday.

In its new statement, Dish warned the agreement would give Comcast a “chokehold” over the main potential driver of new cable competition — new video channels and cable systems delivered over broadband.

It said Comcast will have too much power to control four choke points for competitors — that Dish has described as being the last mile — which are interconnection, managed services and its recently acquired online ad fulfillment service.

“As companies such as Dish innovate and invest to meet the growing consumer demand for broadband-reliant video products and services, this chokehold over the broadband pipe would stifle future video competition and innovation, all to the detriment of consumers and the public interest,” Dish stated. “No set of conditions could conceivably alleviate these harms.”

Dish said the deal would give Comcast both the incentive and the means to prevent rival online video delivery [OVD] or over the top [OTT] platforms for cable channels from competing and said it would surely do so.

“Comcast-TWC will be able to destroy OVDs with impunity,” Dish said. “And destroy them it will.”

The company claims that the addition of TWC’s cable household to Comcast’s would kill the chance of any rivals’ alternative platforms from being profitable.

Dish said its experience developing Dish World and Dish’s soon-to-be-launched domestic over the top service showed the dire threat the combination of Comcast and TWC would bring. Dish said while a new service could survive and be profitable even if current Comcast subscribers couldn’t receive it, an identical move from a combined Comcast and TWC would be “lethal” to new services.

Consumer group Public Knowledge also urged the deal’s rejection.

“The problems that Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable would cause to consumers and industry are unique in their degree and severity,” the group said.