Many of the organizations and companies that lobbied against Comcast's merger with Time Warner have launched a new effort opposing Charter's attempt to buy Time Warner and Bright House Networks for $67 billion.
Opponents -- including satellite provider Dish TV and watchdogs Public Knowledge and Consumers Union -- say the merger will result in a broadband duopoly in the U.S. They calculate that Charter will control almost one-third of high-speed broadband connections in the U.S. (meaning connections of at leat 25 Mbps) after the merger. Together, the post-merger Charter and Comcast will serve almost 90% of high-speed broadband homes, according to the opponents, which have organized under the name Stop Mega Cable Coalition.
"Once again we are faced with a proposed cable merger that threatens the emergence of robust competition for streaming services,” Gene Kimmelman, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, said Thursday in a statement.
The coalition warns on its Web site that Charter and Comcast could use their duopoly power to team up against relatively new over-the-top online video distributors. For instance, the coalition says, Charter and Comcast could push subscribers to purchase cable video packages by increasing the price of stand-alone broadband. That type of move could obviously thwart over-the-top providers, given that many people who subscribe to cable video probably will not also want to subscribe to an over-the-top service that offers the same programs.
The coalition also warns that the cable companies also could treat their own content more favorably than video offered by over-the-top services, such as by charging those services high fees to interconnect with the broadband networks.
Charter said in a statement that the opponents' arguments are "baseless," and that it is "committed to ... delivering fast internet speeds, preserving an open internet and advancing online video friendly policies including no data caps and no modem fees."
Charter has publicly promised to refrain from imposing data caps, or from moving to a pay-per-byte billing system, for at least three years after the merger closes. The company also said it won't charge content companies extra fees to interconnect directly with Charter's servers.
That latter promise seems to have won over Netflix, which in 2014 agreed to pay four other Internet service providers -- Time Warner, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T -- extra fees in order to interconnect directly with their servers. Netflix told the FCC last year that it didn't oppose the merger. CEO Reed Hastings reiterated this week during an earnings call that Charter's proposed mergers would benefit over-the-top video providers.