And they’re off…The FCC officially started its informal 180-day clock to review Comcast‘s planned $42B acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and its side deals to transfer systems to Charter Communications and a new spinoff entity temporarily (I hope) called Spinco. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and his four fellow commissioners set an August 25 deadline for comments and petitions to deny the applications. Parties must respond by September 23, and replies to those comments are due October 8. Although the FCC wants to reach a decision within 180 days, regulators often stop the clock if they need additional time to sort through issues on major deals.

Image (3) COMCAST__140323131517-275x154.jpg for post 703123“We look forward to a thorough, fact-and-data based comment and review process on questions that are specifically related to the issues raised by these transactions,” says Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice. She expects “a robust debate… that’s what the FCC process is for.” But the record should “show the significant advantages that bringing these companies together will bring.”

The conventional wisdom is that the FCC and Justice Department will approve the deals, but only after Comcast agrees to several conditions. If that happens then Comcast will end up with 39.5% of pay TV subscribers and 38.7% of broadband customers, Evercore Group’s Bryan Kraft estimates.