The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee announced Wednesday that it will hold a hearing to examine the impact on competition from the deal struck between Verizon and some of the nation's biggest cable firms to buy some of their spectrum and cross-promote their services.
Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said in a statement he planned to examine the potential competitive effects the deals will have in markets where both Verizon and the cable firms offer both video and Internet services.
Kohn has "not reached any conclusions on this deal yet - just beginning an inquiry which this hearing will be a part of," Kohl's spokeswoman said. The committee has not set a firm date but is aiming to hold the hearing sometime after the President's Day break.
Verizon announced late last year that it had struck deals with Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner to buy some spectrum from them and also to cross-promote their services.
Public interest groups welcomed Kohl's interest. They say the deals raise serious competitive issues given that in most markets there are only two major broadband, phone and television providers.
"If, as these companies claim, they cannot compete against one another, Congress and the FCC need to consider whether we will need to return to the world of regulated natural monopolies," Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld said in a statement. "While Public Knowledge believes that competition is better, there are serious questions to be answered whether true broadband competition can ever emerge if one provider in a two-company broadband market starts selling the products of the other company."