The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reviewing whether the proposed merger of the two biggest cable companies in the United States is in the public interest.
Initially, a 180-day countdown had been imposed by the commission to conduct the review. After learning that Time Warner Cable had withheld over 7,000 documents that were requested by the regulators, the commission had to pause the review at day 104. It will then go back to business on Jan. 12.
The documents had been withheld because Comcast and Time Warner Cable believed they were protected by the so-called attorney-client privilege. Likewise, the commission also learned that over 31,000 documents had been missing because of a vendor error.
Realizing the challenges brought by data dump, the commission decided to pause the review countdown in order to give staff enough time to review the documents. It is also a guiding principle that will prevent the process of reviewing the deal to drag on in an indefinite period of time.
"It has recently come to our attention that Time Warner Cable has discovered a significant number of responsive documents that were not timely produced to the FCC," wrote the commission in a letter.
Comcast has proposed to acquire Time Warner Cable, which would cost the Philadelphia-based company the purchase amount of $45 billion. With Jan. 12 set as the restart date of the review, the FCC is highly likely to decide on the proposed merger towards the end of March.
However, the FCC is keeping the Dec. 23 deadline for any response to the earlier comments filed by Comcast on Sept. 24. Comcast accused its critics of "extortionate" demands.
Dish, one of the critics of the merger, stresses that the expanded Comcast would allow the company to use the resulting reach and clout to drive users to its own services at the expense of other key players in the industry.
"It gives us a view into the post-merger world that the Applicants will create if the commission approves this transaction," said Dish. "The arrogant tone and sense of entitlement on display provide useful insight into how the combined company will treat the American consumer and competitors if this merger is approved."
Time Warner Cable promised to produce the needed documents on Dec. 22. The FCC said it would need more time to study the new documents submitted.
"The tardy productions have interfered with the commission's ability to conduct a prompt and thorough review of the pending applications," said William Lake, media bureau chief of the FCC.