This Could Cripple The Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Customers and labor unions aren’t the only ones feeling uneasy about the looming prospect of a giant cable conglomerate.

Attorneys at the Justice Department’s antitrust division are making moves that may halt a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Bloomberg reported on Friday. The attorneys could submit their recommendation as early as next week.

The $45 billion merger, first announced last February, would unite the two largest cable operators in the country. The move triggered concern among regulators about how customers would be affected, and whether the combined force would have a heavier hand in cable network negotiations.

The new company would have 30 million subscribers.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable currently operate in separate markets: Comcast’s 22 million customers are centered around Chicago, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia, while those of Time Warner Cable, which number around 11 million, are located in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Milwaukee.

The antitrust lawyers’ submission will be reviewed by Renata Hesse, a deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust, who along with other officials may elect to file a federal lawsuit to stop the merger, according to Bloomberg.

Officials at the Justice Department and the FCC are not negotiating with Comcast about proposed solutions to the merger, according to Bloomberg.

"We’ve had no indication from the DOJ that this is true," Bobby Amirshahi, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, told The Huffington Post of Bloomberg's report. "We have been working productively with both DOJ and FCC and believe that there is no basis for the DOJ to block the deal."

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said in a statement that there is "no basis for a lawsuit to block the transaction."

“The Comcast-Time Warner Cable transaction will result in significant consumer benefits - faster broadband speeds, access to a superior video experience, and more competition in business services resulting in billions of dollars of cost savings," Fitzmaurice said. "These benefits have been essentially unchallenged in the record - and all can be achieved without any reduction of competition."

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment.

Comcast delayed the merger closing date to mid-2015 after the Federal Communications Commission, which will review the proposed merger with the antitrust division, requested additional information about the confidentiality of contracts between Comcast and other subscription TV providers. The initial date had been early 2015.

This isn’t the first time Comcast has sought to expand its cable and Internet reach. The company fully acquired NBCUniversal in 2013.

In December, several companies, advocacy groups and labor unions formed the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition in an attempt to pressure officials to block the merger. The group, which counts Dish Network, the Writers Guild of America, West and the Sports Fan Coalition among its members, said the merger may result in Comcast increasing broadband prices and reducing programming options.