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Franken: Netflix Should Weigh in on Risks of Comcast-Time Warner Deal

23 Apr, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Sen.  Al Franken (D-MN) has asked Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to express his concerns about the Comcast-Time Warner deal to the Senate. “As a popular provider of Internet content that competes directly with Comcast, Netflix is uniquely positioned to gauge the risks posed by the deal,” Franken wrote.

Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast an interconnection fee, which allows the video rental company to connect directly to Comcast's servers. The deal also allows Netflix's movies to be delivered significantly faster than in the past to Comcast's subscribers.

But Hastings has said he's unhappy with the deal, and has complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “strong” net neutrality rules would prohibit Internet service providers from charging separate interconnection fees to companies such as Netflix or intermediaries, like Cogent, Akamai or Level 3.

“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make,” Hastings wrote.

Franken, a visible opponent of Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner, also asked Hastings whether he believes the merger will increase Comcast's ability to “extract payments from non-affiliated entities as a condition of access to Comcast's broadband Internet consumers.”

Franken added interconnection agreements can harm both consumers and content producers. “My understanding is that Comcast's consumers and the press documented problems streaming Netflix videos over Comcast's broadband networks and that Netflix ultimately had to pay Comcast an undisclosed sum to resolve the issue,” he writes. “If incidents like this become the norm – as I fear is more likely if Comcast is allowed to acquire Time Warner Cable – it would have serious implications for consumers.”

Franken predicts that the increased costs will make it harder for new content producers to reach consumers, and that consumers will be saddled with higher costs.

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