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Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion (w/video)

  • This Feb. 11, 2011 file photo shows the Comcast logo on one of the company's vehicles, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

LOS ANGELES — With a single behemoth purchase, Comcast is creating a dominant force in American entertainment and presenting federal regulators with an equally outsized quandary: How should they handle a conglomerate that promises to improve cable TV and Internet service to millions of homes but also consolidates unprecedented control of what viewers watch and download?

Comcast, which was already the nation's No. 1 pay TV and Internet provider, says its $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable will provide faster, more reliable service to more customers and save money on TV programming costs. If the acquisition is approved, Comcast will serve some 30 million pay TV customers and 32 million Internet subscribers.

But industry watchdogs say the deal will give the company too much power and ultimately raise the price of high-speed connections.

"How much power over content do we want a single company to have?" said Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, a Washington-based consumer-interest group.

The all-stock deal approved by the boards of both companies trumps a proposal from Charter Communications to buy Time Warner Cable for about $38 billion. It also represents another giant expansion following Comcast's $30 billion purchase of NBCUniversal, operator of networks like NBC, Bravo and USA, which was completed last March.

Comcast says it will continue to operate under conditions the government imposed when it approved that transaction, including a requirement that it provide standalone Internet service without tying it to a pay TV package, make programming available without discrimination to other providers, and treat all Internet traffic the same, even if it is for video competitors such as Netflix. However, those conditions expire in 2018, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts was not prepared to voluntarily extend those into the future in a conference call with journalists.

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