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Garcetti raises concerns about Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, breaking with other mayors

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The Federal Communications Commission has received tens of thousands of comments weighing in Comcast's proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, including one letter from a group of 51 mayors — and another from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Those two letters offer starkly different views on the deal.

The letter from 51 mayors is signed by Comcast's hometown mayor, Philadelphia's Michael Nutter, as well as Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, among others. It strikes the tone of love-letter to the proposed deal.

"The combination of these two American companies will bring benefits to every affected city," the mayors gushed. "Time Warner Cable has been a responsible corporate citizen whose efforts will only be enhanced by joining forces with Comcast’s community investment programs."

In his letter sent Monday, Garcetti stopped short of opposing the merger, but he wrote that the FCC needs to put in place significant safeguards before it approves the deal.

"Without strong commitments to tangible benefits, there is a risk that the merged company may not deliver excellent products and services to Los Angeles consumers, or that the public interest will suffer," wrote Garcetti.

Among Garcetti's concerns:

  • The Dodgers: To Garcetti, the Dodgers TV standoff should be exhibit A as to why the FCC should be skeptical of the deal. He wrote that most of Los Angeles can't watch the Dodgers on TV because Time Warner Cable hasn't been able to reach carriage deals with any major distributors to carry the new all-Dodgers channel. He asked the FCC to investigate the standoff between the cable company and distributors and to look into whether the merger would worsen such disputes. "The Dodgers are a key part of the fabric of this City, and Dodgers games with the legendary Vin Scully in the broadcast booth have traditionally been available to viewers throughout this region at no extra charge," Garcetti wrote. "That is not true this year."
  • Competition: Garcetti is concerned that instead of competing against each other, Comcast and Time Warner Cable would be the same company, meaning that Comcast-owned NBC Universal would be supplying a great deal of programming to itself. 
  • Innovation: Garcetti wrote that if the merger goes through, Comcast will have much more control over "the last mile" into consumers' homes, potentially stifling innovation.

In a letter also sent Monday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio struck a similar tone to Garcetti, warning that the FCC should be very careful approving the merger, especially because it could hamper low-income residents' access to broadband.

"A series of similar mergers has already reduced competition in the cable and broadband sectors, leaving Americans vulnerable to increasing rates and declining customer service," de Blasio wrote.

New York and L.A. are two of Time Warner Cable's biggest markets.

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