Charter Claims Merger Will Boost Competition. 22 Groups Say No, It Won't.

Charter just claimed that taking over Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks will — wait for it — increase competition. You know, the same way chain-smoking improves lung health.

This merger will in fact crush competition — and on Monday, 22 public interest organizations sent a letter urging the FCC to reject this toxic deal. Free Press, the Center for Media Justice, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Demand Progress and were among the groups calling on the FCC to block the merger, which would create a national broadband duopoly. (Translation for Charter: A duopoly ≠ more competition.)

If this deal goes through, Charter would be about the same size as Comcast — and together the two companies would offer service to nearly 80 percent of U.S. households. With this kind of market power, Charter could get away with charging what it wants.

And Charter has to charge more: The deal would leave it with a whopping $66 billion in debt. To repay that, and to satisfy its investors, Charter would have to raise its already steep prices. These price hikes would hit low-income communities the hardest, forcing many offline.

“The FCC is charged with promoting the public interest, and there’s no way in which this merger benefits the public,” said my Free Press colleague Matt Wood. “Higher prices and fewer choices won’t help anyone but the companies pitching this bad bargain.”

Earlier this year, several of the groups that signed Monday’s letter delivered petitions to the FCC from more than 300,000 Americans opposing the merger, and thousands have called the agency in recent days to weigh in against the deal. Political leaders including Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid have also spoken out about the merger’s many harms.

Despite all of this, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is reportedly moving toward approving this deal — even though he’s spoken on multiple occasions about the need for more consumer choice. Last year he even said that his mantra is “competition, competition, competition.” One of his colleagues, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, just followed suit with a mantra of her own: “community, community, community.”

Here’s the thing: If the commissioners care about protecting the public interest, they can use their power to block this terrible deal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a decision on the merger will come any day now. But there’s still time to stop this disaster: Pick up the phone and tell the FCC to block this deal.