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Critics of Time Warner Cable Deal Turn up Volume

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Opponents of Comcast's (CMCSA) proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) stepped up their attacks on the deal, arguing at a congressional hearing Thursday that it will give Comcast too much power to set prices programmers receive for their television content and to determine prices for Internet connectivity.

"This merger is very likely illegal," antitrust lawyer Allen Grunes, a partner at Geyer Gorey LLP and former official with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division said during a hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee. "The parties know it and that's why they're here talking about how they plan to fix it."

The deal is being reviewed by the DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission.

Grunes criticized Comcast's offer to address any competitive concerns the agencies may have by shedding just over 3 million subscribers to Charter Communications (CHTR) and by extending conditions imposed on the company's 2010 acquisition of NBC Universal to the Time Warner Cable deal. Those conditions included open Internet requirements that prevent Comcast from favoring its in-house broadband content over third parties' content.

Public advocacy groups such as Consumers Union, Public Knowledge and the American Antitrust Institute have already voiced concerns about the deal.

Grunes said behavioral conditions like those Comcast is offering don't work because they are difficult to enforce and would leave Comcast operating under different rules than other broadband providers.

"The fix doesn't cut it," he said. "The best remedy is to simply say, 'No.'"

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