Comcast needs no introduction to the economist who the FCC tapped today to help regulators sort through the cable giant’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s for DirecTV: Former FCC Chief Economist William Rogerson, now a professor at Northwestern University, was an important opponent of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He wrote at least three reports in 2010 that challenged Comcast’s economic analysis and concluded that the deal would hurt consumers. One, which he wrote on behalf of the American Cable Association, estimated that the reduction in competition from a combined Comcast-NBCU likely would lead pay TV customers to pay an additional $316.8M a year. That meant “the harm of this transaction is more than ten times as large as the benefit,” he said at the time.
The FCC’s General Counsel, Jonathan Sallett, will chair the steering committee looking at Comcast and AT&T’s pending mega-mergers. Another FCC lawyer, Hillary Burchuk, will focus on Comcast’s agreements with Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. A lawyer with Hunton & Williams, Jamillia Padua Ferris, will join the FCC to dissect AT&T-DirecTV. Rogerson will be the senior economist examining the deals but Kellogg School of Management’s Shane Greenstein — an Internet specialist — will be an economic consultant.
Bernstein Research’s Paul da Sa says that Rogerson and Greenstein are “well respected, have directly relevant expertise in telecom/media, and are experienced in dealing with the Commission and merger reviews.” That means the regulators “will be able to conduct serious economic analyses and engage in vigorous debate with the parties’ retained experts on controversial issues.” The analyst adds that, with the oversight structures in place, the FCC likely will soon start its informal 180-day clock to examine the deals.