Comcast Parries FCC Chairman’s Attack On Cable’s Broadband Clout

Here’s an an example of why Comcast EVP David Cohen is so valuable to the company. In a statement today, the smooth point person for the cable giant’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable made it seem like Comcast is on the same page with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — even after a speech yesterday that looked to some like a veiled challenge to the deal. The chief communications regulator said there’s “simply no competitive choice for most Americans” in the cable-controlled market for speedy broadband services, and that “is not tolerable.” He and other commissioners will decide whether to approve the deal which would leave Comcast with about a third of all broadband subscribers.

Instead of taking umbrage, Cohen says he applauds Wheeler’s “focus on the importance of broadband competition to benefit all Americans.” He adds that the transaction with TWC “will have no negative impact on the competitiveness of the broadband consumer market” because “our two companies don’t compete for customers anywhere.” Indeed, a bigger Comcast can “accelerate and encourage even more investments” in the Internet — something Wheeler wants. That could “incentivize our competitors to invest, too, helping to fuel the virtuous cycle of investment and reinvestment referenced by the Chairman in his remarks, benefiting even more Americans.”

Public Knowledge SVP Harold Feld has a different view:  He says that he doesn’t “see how allowing any further consolidation of the broadband market can possibly make broadband better.”

Meanwhile Wall Street handicappers say that Comcast shouldn’t worry about the FCC chief’s campaign to promote broadband competition. The speech “was about the cable industry generally,” notes Guggenheim Securities’ Paul Gallant. The FCC’s review of Comcast-TWC is “still in its early stages.” The public record is open until October 8, and staffers have yet to receive the cable operators’ “extensive – and important – confidential data.” International Strategy & Investment Group’s Vijay Jayant also observes that Wheeler’s “primary policy emphasis is on ‘competition, competition, competition’, not regulation. This is a viewpoint investors should find to be refreshing and rare coming from Washington.”

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