Friday, February 13, 2009

Crist Issues Civil Subpoenas in Adelphia Cable TV Sale

- Wants to ensure Florida consumers are protected -TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced that his office has issued subpoenas to three of the nation's largest cable television companies, in order to obtain copies of documents related to the effort by Comcast and Time Warner to acquire customers now served by competitor Adelphia Communications Corp. The potential purchase of Adelphia by Comcast and Time Warner could affect at least a half-million Florida consumers.Adelphia, the fifth-largest cable provider in the United States, is looking to sell its cable systems and assets to Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Inc. for a total of $12.7 billion. Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, and Time Warner, the third-largest, in turn are asking the federal government for permission to exchange certain cable systems and assets in order to create regional clusters, which the companies say would make them more efficient and potentially lead to lower rates.The civil investigative demands issued by the Attorney General's Office ask the three companies to provide copies of all documents that have been or will be submitted to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. The subpoenas also request documents provided to the companies by the federal agencies related to the Adelphia acquisition."The best way to keep cable prices low is to ensure a competitive marketplace," said Crist. "Comcast and Time Warner provide a valuable service to millions of Florida consumers, and we hope they continue to meet customers' needs once the Adelphia acquisition has been completed. Our goal is to make sure the interests of Florida consumers are protected once a company's competitor is acquired."In addition to acquiring Adelphia assets, Comcast and Time Warner are seeking permission to swap some of their own assets in order to concentrate their resources in more compact geographic areas. The potential impact on Florida cable markets primarily involves the sale of Adelphia assets to Comcast, with some additional transfer of Time Warner assets to Comcast. If the sale and transfer are approved by the federal government, Comcast will add approximately 510,000 customers in four large markets: Miami (approximately 85,000), West Palm Beach (approximately 308,000), Fort Myers-Naples (approximately 72,000) and Orlando (approximately 45,000).Crist said he plans to seek assurances that the Adelphia sale will not eliminate beneficial "overbuilding" that has occurred in certain areas of the state, including parts of the Orlando area. In those limited areas, more than one cable company installed the necessary facilities and provide cable service to the same neighborhoods, thus promoting a competitive marketplace. Since competition can drive down consumer costs, the Attorney General plans to seek assurances from Comcast that Adelphia resources in these "overbuilt" areas will not be sold to rivals, thereby eliminating direct competition.The civil investigative demands require that the requested documents be submitted to the Attorney General's Antitrust Division by December 27, 2005, but the companies have indicated that they will begin providing some documents immediately.

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