Comcast has been beefing up its armada of legal and lobbying pros for just this kind of situation. Senate lawmakers are about to shine a spotlight on the peace treaty Comcast and other cable operators made in December with one of their toughest competitors: Verizon. The cable companies agreed to sell wireless spectrum they control to the phone giant for $3.6B. Signers also agreed to cross-promote each other products in areas where they don’t already fight head-to-head. The deal is under review at the Justice Department and FCC. But there could be a lot more public scrutiny of the terms after Wednesday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights holds a hearing titled “The Verizon/Cable Deals: Harmless Collaboration or a Threat to Competition and Consumers?” Verizon and Comcast are sending EVPs to testify. The panel also will include likely critics of the deal from the Rural Cellular Association and activist group Free Press, as well as telecom law scholar Timothy Wu, who wrote The Master Switch — an influential examination of how businesses and government deal with technological change. Comcast and Verizon shouldn’t expect a love fest. The meeting will be chaired by Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl, who late last year asked the FTC to investigate whether Google has too much power over the Internet search business.
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