While Comcast’s attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable may be dead in the water, information revealed during the company’s ugly but often entertaining merger sales pitch may come back to haunt it. When Comcast started selling regulators on the idea of the Time Warner Cable merger, you’ll recall it highlighted repeatedly how Comcast should be trusted because it had done such a bang up job adhering to the conditions placed on its acquisition of NBC Universal. Except when regulators tried to verify this M&A claim (which is already rare enough in telecom), they discovered that not only did Comcast write most of the conditions itself, it still somehow managed to repeatedly fail to adhere to them.
For example Comcast had to be fined $800,000 by the FCC for failing to offer and clearly advertise a relatively paltry 5 Mbps, $50 per month broadband tier. Similarly, the company’s Internet Essentials program, which promised 5 Mbps, $10 broadband for low income communities and was a phenomenal PR boon for Comast — at one point resulted in Philadelphia street protests for being hard to find, qualify, and sign up for. It was also revealed that Comcast ignored conditions intended to keep the company from hamstringing Internet video competitor Hulu, which it acquired as part of the NBC deal.
So yes, Comcast, you’re really great at adhering to merger conditions, just as long as nobody actually bothers to look at how well you adhere to merger conditions. Given how closely the FCC had looked at whether companies adhered to merger conditions in the past (as in: not at all), Comcast’s hubris here was understandable.
Most insider accounts had already suggested it was Comcast’s lies surrounding the NBC deal that somehow chaffed regulators the most, though the unrelenting consumer loathing of the company certainly played a role in pressuring the DOJ and FCC to do the right thing by consumers. Interestingly, regulators are still so annoyed by Comcast’s distortions — and are so awash in evidence of bad behavior after the review (covering everything from advertising to poor treatment of minority-owned stations) — that they’re actually considering taking some additional action against Comcast:
“They’re sitting on a ton of potential evidence,” one source close to the process explained. “They’re asking themselves if they can create a separate proceeding or whether they need a new complaint to allow [the evidence] to be introduced.”…Regulators may view the fact that Comcast didn’t win approval for its purchase of TWC as enough of a punishment, sources said. Others point out that the NBCUniversal deal terms need upholding — even after the TWC deal failed.”
In short, the conversation at the FCC currently focuses on whether having the Comcast merger blocked is enough punishment for being immeasurably full of shit, or if regulators need to take some additional action to punish the company for being immeasurably full of shit. I’m guessing the former (with this data stored for ammunition in future interactions with Comcast), though that this is even a point of conversation at the FCC gives you some idea of just how immeasurably full of shit Comcast really was.