An industry group wants antitrust regulators to investigate whether Comcast-NBCUniversal is abusing its power to hurt smaller television and internet service providers. The American Cable Association (ACA), which represents over 700 small and medium-sized cable operators, has asked US Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim to “immediately” open an investigation into Comcast’s practices. Comcast denied that the claims have merit, and the Justice Department hasn’t publicly responded. But the ACA has found a potential supporter in President Donald Trump — who tweeted about its claims this afternoon.
The ACA claims Comcast has a uniquely powerful hold on the US cable industry because it controls a large chunk of “must have” programming like NBC’s regional sports channels. The group argues that the Comcast “has shown a willingness to harm rivals” in the past, even while bound by a 2011 consent decree that expired earlier this year. The letter is dated November 6th but was published today, after Fox Business Networks reported on its existence last week.
Trump appears to have caught a follow-up Fox Business segment today, prompting a tweet about the ACA:
American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast. They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws. “These guys are acting much worse, and have much more potential for damage to consumers, than anything AT&T-Time Warner would do.” Charlie Gasparino
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 12 November 2018
Contra Trump’s description, the letter doesn’t seem to describe “routine” violations of antitrust law. It’s primarily arguing that there’s a huge risk of Comcast abusing its market position, while explaining just how much damage could result if Comcast did so. The ACA has put forward more concrete claims in the past, though — like a 2017 complaint that Comcast was forcing smaller cable providers to bundle unwanted NBC-owned channels into TV packages, driving up their costs.