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Sen. Blumenthal Tasks DOJ With Comcast-NBCU Investigation

WASHINGTON—The merger between Comcast and NBC Universal has come in the cross hairs of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who penned a letter last week to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division to take a closer look at the merger and whether or not it fairly promotes competition.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

The Comcast-NBCU merger was originally proposed in 2011 but was given conditions that are set to expire in September 2018. Blumenthal writes that even despite these conditions, the acquisition has been criticized by experts that is has caused anticompetitive harm. Blumenthal calls on the DOJ to open an investigation into complaints lobbied against the Comcast-NBCU merger to determine if the acquisition can be allowed to stand without the conditions that currently govern it. Blumenthal also asks that the U.S. District Court for D.C. leave the original conditions on the merger, as the court has the power to extend or modify the conditions.

“Given your responsibilities as head of the Antitrust Division to enforce our nation’s antitrust laws, it is incumbent on you to continue to ensure that Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU does not undermine free and fair competition,” Blumenthal wrote.

Some of the key provisions highlighted by Blumenthal in the restrictions is the anti-retaliation provisions, which require Comcast and NBCU not to discriminate against certain type of competitors. The senator also asked that these provisions be expanded by the D.C. District Court to cover competitors that would have been protected from retaliation under conditions overseen by the FCC; those conditions are scheduled to sunset on Jan. 20, 2018.

The FCC’s reversal of net neutrality rules could also play a part in competition on the internet, according to Blumenthal. He writes that the new rule could allow Comcast-NBCU to discriminate against online video distributors.

Depending on the results of the proposed investigation, Blumenthal says that the DOJ would need to consider breaking up the Comcast-NBCU merger altogether to fully restore competition.