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February 26, 2014

House of Burgess: Planet Comcast Time Warner Cable

$45.2 billion deal awaits FCC approval.

(Continued)

Retired FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps has been warning of the dangers of the increasing lack of diversity for years. On Jan. 18, 2011, he was the only one of the five commissioners to vote against the Comcast/NBC Universal deal.

“The public interest requires more — much more — than it is receiving,” Copps wrote in his dissenting opinion. “[The deal] opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet. The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real.”

And with the news of this latest Comcast purchase, Copps made it clear there was no love lost for the idea.

“This is content and distribution,” said Copps Feb. 17 in an interview with Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now.” “This is the John D. Rockefeller recipe for monopoly control. You’ve got the whole thing, when you’re controlling the programs, designing the programs and distributing them, or deciding whether they’re not going to be distributed.”

But, as I said, Copps is retired now. All that’s left are just a few formalities to take care of and the deal is as good as sealed. On top of the FCC hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing March 26, reported Reuters on Monday.

“I and my colleagues will have to review the facts, as presented to us, the opinions people on the outside ... and reach a judgment,” FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” Friday.

Now, I’m no soothsayer, and I’m not generally a betting man, but if I had to guess, I would say this latest merger is going to encounter minimal interference from the FCC. I can nearly smell the rubber stamp being inked from here.

“When deep space exploration ramps up, it’ll be the corporations that name everything,” intones the unnamed protagonist in the movie “Fight Club.” “The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Microsoft Galaxy.” And, coming soon: Planet Comcast Time Warner Cable.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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