Comcast filings with regulators expected at end of March

Thu Feb 20, 2014 6:41pm EST
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By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Comcast Corp said on Thursday it plans to submit documents on its proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc to U.S. regulators by the end of March, when antitrust and public interest reviews will be launched.

The proposed merger between the two biggest U.S. cable service providers is expected to draw intense scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, which reviews whether deals are in the public interest, and either the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, which share antitrust oversight.

The deal has drawn concern from consumer advocates and some lawmakers who worry that the new company's size would give it too much power to decide what Americans can watch on TV and do online.

Comcast is targeting the end of March to submit its application to the FCC, spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said. Companies usually have 30 business days to file with the FCC after a deal's announcement.

Around the same time, Comcast will also submit documents asking antitrust regulators for approval, she said. The FTC and Justice Department will then determine which agency will take the lead on the review.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Justice Department antitrust chief William Baer sent a rare public signal of skepticism earlier this month on a potential deal between wireless carriers Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc. No deal has been officially proposed yet between those companies.

On Thursday, Wheeler was asked whether he had similar concerns about the proposed tie-up between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

"It was an interesting situation in that Sprint/T-Mobile actually came to us and said: 'We're thinking about this, what do you think about it?' Comcast never did," Wheeler said. "So I'm in a position right now of sitting and waiting for Comcast to file their requisite documents so that we can begin our consideration.   Continued...

A Comcast sign is shown on the entrance to its store in San Francisco, California February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith