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February 13th, 2014
05:58 PM ET

Al Franken unleashed: Comcast merger bad for consumers

(CNN) – Comcast said Thursday it had agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in a deal that would combine the two biggest cable companies in the United States.

If the deal is approved, the combined group will be the country's dominant provider of television channels and Internet connections, reaching roughly one in three American homes.

But Democratic Senator Al Franken says the deal would hurt consumers.

"There's not enough competition, we need more competition, not less. This is going exactly in the wrong direction," Franken said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"Consumers are – I am very concerned – are going to pay higher bills, they are going to get even worse service and less choice," said Franken.

More and more Americans get their entertainment from the internet. Comcast currently has 20% of the Internet service market, the merger will give it 30%.

Franken says he was already against Comcast acquiring NBC Universal, and says the broadcasting of the Olympics illustrates why it was a bad deal for cable subscribers.

"If you're a cable provider, you better have (the Olympics). So if you're not Comcast, you've got to pay ... Comcast NBC for the rights to the Olympics. And Comcast can charge whatever they want. They have to pay themselves the same thing by law, but they're taking out of their right pocket and putting it in their left pocket," says Franken.

"That's anti-competitiveness, as far as I'm concerned," said the senator.

The Federal Communications Commission put conditions on the Comcast NBC Universal deal, but Franken says Comcast has not complied with many of them.

One condition Comcast "fought tooth and nail" was the "neighborhooding" of cable news networks, says Franken. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News were all put near each other, and Comcast was supposed to put Bloomberg TV in the same neighborhood.

"But because Bloomberg competes with CNBC, which is a financial news network, Comcast didn't comply with that, and they finally had to be ordered to do that," said Franken.

The company's failure to comply with the FCC's conditions on the last merger ought to give lawmakers and officials pause, says Franken.

"My concerns are what it means for a consumer is higher prices, worse service, and worse choice," said Franken.

For our full interview with Al Franken, including his thoughts on the roll out of the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota, click here, or check out the video below.

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