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Comcast Rivals Request DOJ Antitrust Probe

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 13, 2018 2:57 PM

A lobby group for small television and broadband companies has asked the federal government to investigate whether Comcast is using its television programming to muscle out competition.

The American Cable Association, which represents more than 700 companies, says the media giant is so dominant that others cannot compete. They have asked the Department of Justice to investigate claims that Comcast is using its position to leverage them out of markets and raise prices for consumers.

Comcast, which recently emerged from government restrictions after purchasing NBCUniversal, said the claims are "without merit." The DOJ, however, has been considering the anti-competition concerns for years.

Government Restrictions

In 2011, the federal government approved the Comcast/NBC deal with conditions. The merger conditions required the company to submit to arbitration if there were disputes over prices, terms, and programming agreements with other pay-TV companies.

Smaller cable companies worried that Comcast would raise prices for "must-have" programming, such as regional sports as well as NBC's local and national programming. Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the DOJ to consider breaking up Comcast and NBC once the merger conditions expired.

The conditions expired in January, and now ACA wants the DOJ to take action.

"By opening a formal investigation, the DOJ will demonstrate seriousness of purpose and give it the ability to collect sufficient information to determine whether Comcast-NBC is acting anticompetitively," ACA told the government. "It also will be a sign to rivals that the DOJ is serious about hearing their experiences with Comcast-NBCU and will preserve the confidentiality of those communications."

"Seriousness of Purpose"

The DOJ has not responded, but Comcast was ready with a response. The company said video programming and distribution markets are "incredibly competitive."

"At Comcast NBCUniversal, we are competing in this dynamic environment the way we always have -- by continuing to innovate and conducting our business in compliance with antitrust laws and other legal requirements," the company said.

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