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.
A combination of the No.1 and No.2 cable providers would give one company control of three-fourths of the U.S. cable market. What would that mean for programmers and viewers?
FORTUNE -- Comcast (CMCSA) executives reportedly believe that if their company decides to make a bid for Time Warner Cable (TWC), it's unlikely the deal would face serious regulatory scrutiny since the two cable giants' geographical markets don't overlap much. In this, MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Nov 25, 2013 12:30 PM ET
The Department of Justice and AT&T have one thing in common: neither side wants to talk about the real rationale for the T-Mobile takeover.
FORTUNE -- When AT&T bet $39 billion that it could acquire T-Mobile -- including $6 billion it won't get back even if regulators kill the deal -- it gambled on a clever strategy that suddenly seems too clever by half.
AT&T (T) advertised the benefits of the merger MOREScott Woolley - Sep 1, 2011 9:35 AM ET
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* LinkedIn (LNKD) reported better-than-expected profits of four cents a share on sales of $121 million for its most recent quarter, as well as a 61% jump in users to 115.8 million. Colleague Jessi Hempel spoke with CEO Jeff Weiner about the company's future. (Fortune)
* Former Microsoft (MSFT) exec MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Aug 5, 2011 3:30 AM ET
Bloomberg Television is still stuck in Siberia in the Comcast channel lineup, and it's right to ask the FCC to step in.
FORTUNE -- One of the main worries surrounding Comcast's (CMCSA) merger with NBC Universal was that Comcast would use its cable platform to favor its own programming at the expense of competitors. From the beginning, the financial news organization Bloomberg has issued perhaps the loudest complaints about the situation. MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Jun 15, 2011 11:11 AM ET
On April 14, 2011 Fortune's Adam Lashinsky interviewed Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in Mountain View, Calif., at an event sponsored by the Commonwealth Club of California. The chairman danced around the most prominent item on his agenda, the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T. He also discussed spectrum re-allocation, his pragmatic approach, and what it was like being a law school classmate of President Obama. An MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Apr 26, 2011 12:07 PM ET
The AT&T/T-Mobile mega-merger was supposed to be too big for regulators to ever accept. Then came the wild success of industry upstart MetroPCS.
Among the many people who mistakenly dismissed the idea of AT&T (T) buying out T-Mobile as a never-gonna-happen, count T-Mobile's very own top executives. How else to explain their snarky ad campaign that razzed AT&T for running an old, slow and unreliable network?
How so many well-informed people got MOREScott Woolley - Mar 22, 2011 1:24 PM ET
T-Mobile and AT&T say they won't have to raise rates to make more money after the merger, but it's hard to see how they could resist.
At a recent investor conference, T-Mobile's top executives made a point of belittling data plans for smartphone users offered by rivals AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ). T-Mobile's entry-level data plan costs $10, they pointed out, while AT&T demands 50% more for the same 200 megabyte-a-month MOREScott Woolley - Mar 21, 2011 8:26 AM ET
Use Skype on your iPhone's 3G network, or Google Voice? You wouldn't if the government hadn't stepped in.
By Chadwick Matlin, contributor
It took Skype two years to finally make its way to the iPhone. And when it did, it only allowed calls over a Wi-Fi connection—talking to friends over 3G was strictly prohibited. AT&T's (T) network, we were told, could barely handle regular phone calls, let alone ones that took place over the MOREJan 5, 2011 12:52 PM ET
A curated selection of the day's most newsworthy tech stories from all over the Web.
Today, the FCC votes on Internet regulations that would mandate that companies treat all kind of Web content equally -- though as they are now, the rules would not apply to wireless data. Venture capitalist and former California State Controller Steve Westly explained why the net neutrality proposal announced by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is a must-have. (CNN MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 21, 2010 6:00 AM ET
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