FCC Pauses to Consider Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The agency is waiting for a court ruling, but Comcast says it doesn't see this as a long-term impediment to the $45 billion acquisition.

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday announced it is "pausing" the 180-day clock it is using to consider a $45 billion acquisition by Comcast of Time Warner Cable.

Comcast responded that it understands the reason for the break and that it still believes the ongoing regulatory review of the proposed combination of the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. multisystem cable operators can be completed soon.

"The FCC appears to be making significant progress in the review of our transaction in order to bring it to a conclusion," said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast's vp government communications, in a statement. "The comment cycle is complete, the economists have all weighed in and the parties have responded to all of the FCC's requests for information. We look forward to working with the government to complete the regulatory review process."

The holdup, according to the FCC, has to do with a pending court decision about the right to review highly confidential video programming agreements — the deals for retransmission consent with CBS, Disney and others.

The FCC is waiting for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to rule on protective orders relating to who can view confidential information on the video programming deals.

"At this time," the FCC said in its statement, "we believe it is prudent to pause the informal 180-day transaction clocks because the commission would be advantaged by knowing the resolution of the pending Petition for Review before the transaction clocks reach the 180-day mark, which both are slated to do by the end of March."

"We understand the FCC's decision to pause the informal review clock," said Fitzmaurice, "while the court continues to review a procedural matter related to the transaction. That case is under expedited review — oral argument occurred in late February — and a decision is expected shortly."

Now that the FCC has completed the Open Internet rules and other business, there has been anticipation it would focus on the Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable, announced more than a year ago.