FORTUNE -- It's not often that an FCC commissioner weighs in on a possible merger in the communications industry. But Ajit Pai did just that in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. He doubts the government would approve an outright acquisition by Comcast (CMCSA) of Time Warner Cable (TWC).
"The Obama administration has applied greater scrutiny to proposed mergers and acquisitions," he said, noting AT&T's (T) withdrawal in 2011 of a proposed acquisition of T-Mobile (TMUS) in the face of a government lawsuit, as well as the Justice Department's lawsuit opposing the merger of U.S. Airways (LCC) and American Airlines, which resulted in a settlement last month.
"Precedents like this suggest an outright acquisition by Comcast of Time Warner Cable could face a number of hurdles in the Obama administration," Pai said. "A Republican administration likely would be more inclined to approve a deal." Pai is one of two Republicans among the five commissioners.
The Journal also reported that Comcast has "discussed" taking parts of Time Warner Cable, with Charter taking other parts, presumably to avoid antitrust problems.
Comcast acquired NBC Universal in 2010, and the FCC's and DOJ's approval of that deal has been met with widespread criticism. The notion of a full acquisition of Time Warner has similarly caused alarm among industry observers. The FCC's new chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday indicated that he will carefully scrutinize all merger proposals to prevent any erosion of competition in the communications industry. The worry with a megamerger among cable companies has more to do with the market power they could amass in their dealings with TV programmers than with their power over cable customers (where cable companies generally enjoy local monopolies anyway.)
It's impossible to predict what might happen if Comcast were to make a bid for all of Time Warner Cable, but as things stand, it seems unlikely that it would be approved, at least without conditions. More likely is a joint bid with Charter, especially since Charter on its own would have to take on a huge debt load to acquire Time Warner Cable -- and both companies are already debt-laden. Charter also wouldn't be able to offer much of a premium over Time Warner Cable's market cap. On Friday, Time Warner Cable was trading at around $130 a share, putting its market cap at just above $37 billion. Charter's market cap is just above $13 billion.
Critics say data caps are aimed squarely at hindering competition from Internet video providers.
FORTUNE -- Cable companies continue to expand their imposition of data caps on Internet customers in some areas. Critics see it as an attempt to thwart competition from Internet video providers like Netflix (NFLX) that offer alternatives to cable TV.
DSLReports' Karl Bode reported this week that two companies, Comcast (CMSCA) and Mediacom, have both expanded caps or MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Aug 9, 2013 2:24 PM ET
Fortune's cover story looks at how the online video service is changing everything.
FORTUNE -- Cat videos and viral hits? No more. Over the past two years, YouTube has undergone a radical transformation. The Google-owned site has emerged as a legitimate platform for professional content creators to communicate with their viewers. A new breed of digital studios like Awesomeness TV, Maker Studios, and Machinima are thriving on YouTube, gathering massive audiences MOREJul 25, 2013 8:00 AM ET
Old-school DVRs are fighting to stay relevant in an era of add-on devices from the likes of Apple, Roku, and others.
By Peter Suciu
FORTUNE -- It used to be that families would gather around the living room TV during prime time to watch their favorite shows together. Even as the living room set has gotten bigger, the audience in front of it continues to shrink. Moreover families aren't watching together MOREMay 8, 2013 1:47 PM ET
Adding Internet streams of broadcast TV to the mix of options for viewers is yet another assault on cable's walled garden.
FORTUNE -- Now that Aereo has a new lease on life for its bizarre business model thanks to a court ruling Monday, the question arises: What is the company's end game?
Aereo streams broadcast television programs -- including news and sports -- over the Internet. The company argues that by creating MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Apr 3, 2013 9:03 AM ET
All this talk about an Apple-branded TV set may be missing the point
Reading between the lines of the Wall Street Journal's story Monday about Apple's "assault" on the TV business, you can almost hear the desperation of the media executives who asked Apple (AAPL) to brief them on exactly what the wizards of Cupertino are up to.
These media executive -- which included, presumably, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. (NWS) owns MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 19, 2011 8:23 AM ET
ESPN's deal to pay $15 billion for Monday Night Football could incite a revolt against the cable industry's basic business model.
FORTUNE -- The idea that American television viewers should be free to buy just the TV channels they want has always proven a pipe dream. It's a silly idea, cable and satellite operators have convinced politicians and regulators: selling channels in packages funds a wider variety of programming, actually leaving MORESep 12, 2011 9:53 AM ET
Will Apple TV's successor, rumored for Sept. release, really destroy cable and satellite?
Kevin Rose, co-founder of Digg, made two bold predictions Saturday about the rumored update to what Steve Jobs calls his "hobby" -- an Apple-branded gateway to the vast wasteland of American television. The product Engadget has been calling iTV, according to Rose, 1) is coming in September and 2) will "change everything."
Never mind that Rose, who claims to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 22, 2010 7:01 AM ET
|Delinquent IRS employees paid bonuses by the agency|
|Court quizzes Aereo: Do TV streams break the law?|
|Gun silencer sales are booming|
|China factories extend slump|
|How women can narrow the 'confidence gap'|