MONEY The Economy

WATCH: Why You Should Care About the $7 Billion Citigroup Mortgage Settlement

Citigroup paid $7 billion as part of a settlement with the Justice Department, but homeowners affected by toxic mortgages are still struggling.

TIME justice

Dutch Supreme Court Blocks Extradition of Al-Qaeda Suspect to U.S.

NETHERLANDS-PAKISTAN-USA-JUSTICE
The lawyer of Dutch-Pakistani national Sabir Khan, Andre Seebregts (L), arrives in the courtroom of The Hague, on February 12, 2013. Robin Utrecht—AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. wanted to put Sabir Khan on trial in New York for supporting terrorist attacks against Americans in Afghanistan

In a setback for the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement to fight al-Qaeda, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands on Friday blocked the extradition to the U.S. of Sabir Ali Khan, a Dutch-Pakistani man wanted in New York for conspiracy to commit murder and support of al-Qaeda.

The U.S. believes Khan was involved in Taliban and al-Qaeda attacks against Americans in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in 2010, according to U.S. court documents obtained by TIME. Khan was arrested by Pakistani forces in Sept. 2010, allegedly at the request of the U.S., and held at a secret prison where he says he was tortured.

Khan, whose mother was Dutch, has citizenship in the Netherlands and was eventually released to Dutch authorities and flown to Holland, where he was arrested. His Dutch lawyer argued that the government should determine whether Khan was arrested at the U.S. behest, and whether he would face a threat of further torture if he were extradited.

The Dutch Supreme Court Friday ruled that the extradition could not proceed because the Dutch Government had declined to look into the alleged U.S. role in Khan’s arrest. The Court, which did not address the threat of torture by the U.S., concluded “the Dutch State should have done some research in this matter,” says Dutch Supreme Court Spokeperson Mireille Beentjes. In blocking the extradition, the court stressed “the large interest of combatting torture worldwide,” Beentjes said, quoting from the court’s opinion.

Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the Eastern District of New York, where Khan was indicted on five counts in 2010, said, “We’re going to review the ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court and consider our options.”

Khan, who is in his late 20s, declined to comment when reached by telephone Friday. He remains free and living in the Netherlands. In January, he told TIME that while he suspects he is under constant surveillance, “Officially I have no restrictions on me.”

The case shows how the U.S. must increasingly rely on other states’ legal systems in countering terrorism as Washington attempts to wind down extraordinary powers granted to the president after 9/11. Those states are sometimes more or less aggressive than the U.S. would like, and counterterrorism officials are having to adjust as a result.

 

TIME justice

Insane Clown Posse Appeals Dismissal of Gang Lawsuit

Joseph Bruce, Violent J, Joseph Utsler, Shaggy 2 Dope
Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, address the media in Detroit, Jan. 8, 2014. The U.S. Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Insane Clown Posse, which objects to a report that describes its fans as a dangerous gang. Carlos Osorio—AP

ACLU lawsuit says FBI violated band's free speech when it labeled their "Juggalo" fanbase a "hybrid gang"

The music group Insane Clown Posse Tuesday appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit it filed against the Justice Department over a 2011 FBI report that designated the rap duo’s fans, known as “Juggalos,” as a gang.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in January filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group alleging their free speech and due process rights, and those of their fans, were violated when the FBI labeled juggalos a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” ICP and Juggalos say they’ve been unfairly targeted by police because of the report.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled last week that the Justice Department is not responsible for how other groups use their recommendations and that the report “does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends.” The ACLU has appealed the decision to dismiss the suit.

In a statement, Tuesday, ICP member known as Violent J, also known as Joseph Bruce, said “This is not the end—we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name.”

“Juggalos are not an organized fan club,” the ACLU says in its statement, “but a group of people who bond over the music and a philosophy of life, much like “Deadheads” bonded around the Grateful Dead.”

Juggalos, according to the FBI report, have been responsible for assaults and vandalism and a “small number” for more serious crimes. They were not included in the FBI’s most recent report.

TIME Congress

Rubio Says Cuban Intelligence Capability in U.S. ‘Grossly Underestimated’

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington on June 19, 2014.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington on June 19, 2014. Molly Riley—AP

"The Cuban government punches well above their weight"

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Tuesday that the Cuban intelligence presence in Washington and the United States is “grossly underestimated.”

“I think Cuban intelligence is much more active in this country than people believe,” Rubio said in response to questions about New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s claim that he was the target of a Cuban intelligence smear scheme. “It is in fact, one of the three or four most active intelligence agencies operating in the United States today.”

“This is an ongoing challenge for all administrations,” added Rubio, a Florida native of Cuban descent who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. “It’s an espionage issue. When it comes to intelligence gathering and the ability to carry out intelligence operations, the Cuban government punches well above their weight.”

The Washington Post reported Monday night that Menendez has asked the Justice Department to seek evidence obtained by U.S. intelligence agents that the Cuban government engaged in a smear campaign that left him tangling with allegations he participated in pool parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has been buffeted by a federal probe into whether he used his position to benefit the host of that trip.

Shortly before Menendez’s reelection in 2012, the conservative website The Daily Caller published a story quoting two Dominican women who said the Senator had paid them for sex. The women later recanted their accounts, saying they were paid to make them up, and the FBI’s investigation did not confirm the prostitution claims. Menendez, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is fiercely in favor of the U.S. embargo of Cuba, and he told CNN on Tuesday he “wouldn’t be surprised” that the Castro regime “would do anything it can to stop me.”

Rubio said Tuesday that he has no idea if he has been targeted by Cuban intelligence officials.

“Not that I know,” said Rubio. “But who knows? I think Cuban intelligence presence both in Washington and the U.S. is grossly underestimated.”

TIME National Security

Memo Justifying Drone Strikes on Americans to Be Released

A demonstrator holds up a sign protesting the Obama administration's use of drones during May Day demonstrations in New York
A demonstrator holds up a sign protesting the Obama administration's use of drones, in New York, May 1, 2014. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Reports say the Obama Administration will bow to pressure and release a secret document justifying hits on Americans, including Yemen-based al-Qaeda foreign-ops chief Anwar al-Awlaki

Correction appended, May 22, 2014

The Justice Department will release a classified 2011 memo that provided legal justification for the killing of American terrorist suspects overseas, according to unnamed U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

The Obama Administration has been under pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to release the document. The Washington Post reported that a group of Senators said on Tuesday it would fight President Obama’s nomination to a federal-appeals-court judgeship of David J. Barron, one of the memo’s authors, unless the document was released. Barron is a Harvard professor and former Justice Department official.

Drones have killed four U.S. citizens, including Yemen-based Anwar al-Awlaki, described as the foreign-operations chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki’s teenage son, also American, was killed in a separate strike.

(MORE: Inside the Obama Administration’s Fight Over the Drone Memo)

Reporters for New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the memo, which was rejected by a federal court. On April 21, an appeals court overturned that decision. The Administration had until June 5 to object but instead it has reportedly chosen to publicize the memo on the eve of the Senate vote on Barron’s nomination, the Associated Press says.

Lawmakers have apparently been allowed to preview a copy of the memo.

ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer welcomed the release of the document, the Washington Post said. “The public surely has a right to know the breadth of the authority the government is claiming [for a drone strike against Americans] as well as the legal basis for it,” Jaffer said.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated that Anwar al-Awlaki’s son was killed in the same strike as his father. He was killed in a separate attack.

TIME Security

FBI Arrests Over 90 ‘Creepware’ Hackers

US Prosecutor Announces Major Crackdown On Cybercriminal Malware
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announces a massive law enforcement action targeting the creators of the Blackshades software - a malicious computer software that was openly sold on a website- on May 19, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The snooping software allowed hackers to gain control of others' computers, and was famously used to take nude pictures of a former Miss Teen USA through her webcam

Law enforcement agents have arrested more than 90 hackers accused of infecting more than half-a-million computers worldwide with malicious snooping software, of the type used to surreptitiously snap nude photos of a teenage beauty queen last year.

Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf was one of the more prominent victims of the malware. One California hacker, Jared James Abrahams, admitted using it last year to gain control of Wolf’s computer webcam and take naked photos of her. He later tried to extort more nude photos from Wolf by threatening to expose them online.

The suspects were charged Monday with developing, selling and marketing a remote access tool, or “RAT,” that allowed users to infiltrate computers, view files and steal personal data from unwitting victims. The original creator of the software, who founded an organization called “Blackshades,” was arrested in June 2012, but investigators said an international ring of hackers continued to sell and disseminate the software after his arrest, reaching thousands of people in more than 100 countries.

19 countries participated in the arrests, and more than 300 searches had been conducted in what law enforcers described as one of the largest cybersecurity operations in history.

“As today’s case makes clear,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “we now live in a world where, for just $40, a cybercriminal halfway across the globe can – with just a click of a mouse – unleash a RAT that can spread a computer plague not only on someone’s property, but also on their privacy and most personal spaces.”

 

TIME Civil Rights

Feds Blast Albuquerque Police For ‘Excessive Force’

Vigil For Veteran Shot Dead by Albuquerque Police
Star Garrett, left, and Shannon Haley, second from left, embrace during the vigil for James Boyd in the foothills near U-Mound in Albuquerque, April 2, 2014. Marla Brose—Albuquerque Journal/ZUMA Press

The scathing report comes weeks after protests against police brutality shook the city. The mayor has already said the police department will implement reforms as a result of the Justice Department probe

A federal investigation into the Albuquerque police department found “a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force” that violated the Fourth Amendment, the Justice Department said Thursday.

The probe, launched in 2012, found that the Albuquerque Police Department too often uses deadly force, applies less lethal force—like Tasers—unnecessarily, and too often uses force against people with mental illness. The report also details problems within the department that include inadequate training and lack of accountability.

The scathing report comes weeks after protests against police brutality shook the city, fueled by outrage over the police shooting of James Boyd, a homeless mentally ill man. Since January 2010, 37 people were shot by police, and 23 were killed.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced last week in anticipation of the report the hiring of a deputy police chief to oversee implementation of the report’s recommendations.

 

 

TIME deals

Critics Call Comcast’s Time Warner Cable Deal ‘Unthinkable’

The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia
The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia. William Thomas Cain—Getty Images

Federal regulators must now determine whether the proposed $45 billion merger would stifle competition or harm the public interest

Comcast’s proposed $45 buyout of Time Warner Cable is “unthinkable,” a coalition of more than 50 public interest groups wrote in a letter to U.S. regulators on Tuesday. The merger, which would combine the two largest cable companies in the country, would harm competition while offering no “tangible benefits” to consumers, according to the groups, which urged regulators to block the deal because it would give Comcast too much market power.

The letter, which was signed by Public Knowledge, Free Press, Consumers Union, the New America Foundation and other prominent consumer advocacy groups was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler 24 hours before a senior Comcast executive is set to testify about the deal before Congress Wednesday.

The Justice Department, along with more than two dozen state attorneys general, is examining the proposed merger to ensure it doesn’t violate antitrust law. The FCC, meanwhile, is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Critics say the merger would concentrate too much market power in the hands of a single corporate giant, potentially harming competitors and the broader public interest.

“The Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger would give Comcast unthinkable gatekeeper power over our commercial, social and civic lives,” the groups wrote. “Everyone from the biggest business to the smallest startup, from elected officials to everyday people, would have to cross through Comcast’s gates. Given these clear and present dangers and the complete lack of any tangible benefits, it’s clear that the union of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable companies is not good for competition or in the public interest.”

Comcast says that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because it doesn’t currently compete with Time Warner Cable for customers in any of the same geographic markets. (Over the last few decades, the nation’s largest cable TV companies have divided up the U.S. by city and region so that the major players now dominate their respective areas. For example, Comcast controls Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston, while Time Warner Cable is dominant in New York City, Dallas and Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable was spun off from TIME parent company Time Warner in 2009).

However, critics of the deal warn that the merger could give Comcast unprecedented “monopsony” power — which is one buyer with many sellers, as opposed to “monopoly” power, which is one seller with many buyers — in the market for programming. Such monopsony power could mean downward pressure on prices for consumers, but only if Comcast chose to pass those savings on to them. That seems unlikely. “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly,” Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen told reporters when the deal was announced.

Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, wrote in a report about the deal released Tuesday that Comcast could use its new monopsony power to “increase its profits by paying less for the goods and services it buys and charge more or gain market share for its own products by using its buyer power.” Such market power could ultimately harm consumers, according to Gene Kimmelman, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, because it would enable Comcast to “demand less than market prices for programming. Programmers will seek to make up lost revenues by increasing prices to other distributors, harming the ability of smaller distributors to compete and raising prices to consumers.”

(MORE: Comcast Set For Grilling Over Time Warner Cable Deal)

Even still, Cooper says the fact that Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t currently compete for cable customers illustrates the lack of competition that already exists in the market — even before the proposed merger.

“Far from excusing the merger from antitrust and Communications Act scrutiny,” Cooper wrote, “the fact that Comcast and Time Warner do not compete head-to-head merely reminds us of the sad state of horizontal competition in the video distribution markets that they dominate in their local areas — broadband Internet access and multichannel video.”

The lack of competition created by decades of industry consolidation has created a situation where the dominant companies have little incentive to improve broadband speeds and service. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the United States 35th out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth. In the U.S., Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the two largest cable providers, ranked 15th and 16th, respectively, in customer satisfaction among 17 television service providers, according to a recent study by Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, the cost of cable subscriptions has significantly outpaced inflation, Consumer Reports found.

“Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable rank very poorly with consumers when it comes to value for the money and have earned low ratings for customer support,” says Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel at Consumers Union. “A merger combining these two huge companies would give Comcast even greater control over the cable and broadband Internet markets, leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and worse customer service for consumers.” She added: “The FCC and Department of Justice should stand with consumers and oppose this merger.”

Federal policymakers at the Justice Department and the FCC are now confronted with a difficult decision: Should the two largest cable companies in the country be allowed to merge, creating a media and communications giant of unprecedented scope and scale? In a context where the U.S. lags behind other industrialized countries in broadband speeds, does the merger benefit consumers? Last year, the Obama administration declared that “the delivery of fast, affordable and reliable broadband service to all corners of the United States must be a national imperative.” Regulators must now decide if Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable advances that agenda.

TIME deals

Comcast Faces Senate Grilling on Time Warner Cable Deal

David Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation, speaks during the 2013 Women in Cable Telecommunications Signature Luncheon at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on June 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.
David Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation, speaks during the 2013 Women in Cable Telecommunications Signature Luncheon at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on June 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Larry Busacca—Getty Images for WICT

Comcast's executive vice president testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to defend a $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable

Comcast’s campaign to convince U.S. officials that its proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable will benefit consumers kicked into high gear on Wednesday, when a senior executive from the corporate giant appeared before a key Congressional committee.

The proposed merger, which would combine the two largest cable companies in the U.S. and create an unprecedented entertainment and communications colossus, is fiercely opposed by many consumer advocacy groups.

Critics of the deal say the merger would concentrate too much market power in the hands of a single media giant, potentially harming competitors and offering scant benefits for consumers. On Tuesday, more than 50 public interest groups sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission in which they called the deal “unthinkable” and urged U.S. regulators to block it.

The intense debate about the proposed merger underscores the rapid changes sweeping across the media landscape as broadband Internet service becomes the signature communications medium of the 21st century. Tens of millions of Americans communicate, conduct business, and consume content using Internet-based technologies like email, instant messaging, video chat, social networks, voice-over-IP phone service, and streaming entertainment options like Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.

Federal approval of the deal would amount to a resounding triumph for Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, whose father founded the company in 1963 by buying a 1,200-subscriber cable TV company in Tupelo, Miss. for $500,000. Comcast, which now employs 136,000 people and has a market value of $130 billion, already owns NBCUniversal, one of the crown jewels of the entertainment industry, after buying the company from industrial conglomerate General Electric.

On Wednesday, Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and argued that the deal won’t harm competitors or consumers. On the contrary, Cohen said the deal is actually great for consumers, who will benefit from faster Internet speeds, enhanced broadband services, and improved user interface technology. Comcast has also pledged to extend its “net neutrality” commitment to Time Warner Cable customers, and expand a program that pushes broadband access in low income areas into Time Warner Cable markets.

(MORE: Comcast’s Time Warner Cable Deal is ‘Unthinkable,’ Critics Say)

Several lawmakers have expressed concern about the deal, including Sen. Al Franken (D—Mn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I have serious reservations about this proposed transaction, which would consolidate the largest and second largest cable providers in America,” Franken wrote in a recent letter to regulators. “Unfortunately, a handful of cable providers dominate the market, leaving consumers with little choice but to pay high bills for often unsatisfactory service. I am concerned that Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner would only make things worse for consumers.”

On Tuesday, Comcast filed its 180-page Public Interest Statement with the FCC, which is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. “We expect a rigorous review as we’ve had in our previous deals, and believe an objective weighing of the significant public interest benefits that are offered by this transaction and the lack of competitive concerns should lead to approval,” Cohen wrote in a corporate blog post.

If the deal is approved, Comcast would command nearly 40% of the high speed wire line broadband Internet market in the U.S. Critics say that allowing one company to control the pipes bringing high-speed Internet access into the homes of four out of ten U.S. broadband subscribers would give Comcast an alarming amount of power over consumers and competitors alike. (Time Warner Cable was spun off from TIME parent Time Warner in 2009.)

Cohen dismisses such concerns. “This transaction is all about increasing competition and creating more consumer benefit as a result of gaining additional scale,” he said in a recent interview with C-SPAN. Comcast says that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because the two companies don’t compete for cable customers in the same markets. “Customers will still have the same number of video, broadband, or phone options before the deal as after it,” Cohen wrote in the blog post.

Comcast says the deal will help it address competitive threats not just from traditional phone and satellite firms like AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV, and DISH, but also from Internet companies like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook. “Internet and device companies, with newfound global scale, also are competing aggressively in the video marketplace and in the larger broadband value circle,” Cohen wrote, pointing to initiatives like Google Fiber, Apple TV, and Amazon’s recently announced Fire TV set-top box.

One thing that Comcast is not promising is lower prices for consumers. “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly,” Cohen told reporters when the deal was announced. The implication of this statement is that any cost savings that Comcast is able to achieve, either through increased scale or enhanced buying power, would go directly to the company’s bottom line or be invested back into the business.

It’s possible, but by no means certain, that such investment will benefit consumers, through advances in broadband speed and technology. But the people most likely to benefit from of any enhancement of Comcast’s already formidable competitive position in the marketplace will surely be the company’s shareholders.

TIME deals

Comcast Exec Says Time Warner Cable Deal Will Be Great for America

The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia
The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia. William Thomas Cain—Getty Images

Comcast's policy chief David Cohen says he hasn't heard any "rational, knowledgeable voices" objecting to the $45 billion merger

Comcast’s proposed $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable won’t violate U.S. antitrust laws or federal public interest rules, a senior Comcast executive said over the weekend. On the contrary, a merger between the two largest cable companies in the country will be great for consumers, Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen said in an interview with C-SPAN.

Cohen made his comments as opposition to the deal continues to grow from public interest groups, lawmakers, and industry observers. Critics of the deal say the merger would concentrate too much market power in the hands of a single media and entertainment behemoth, potentially leading to higher prices for consumers. Comcast dismisses such fears and insists that the merger will result in better service for consumers.

The Justice Department is examining the proposed deal to make sure it doesn’t violate antitrust law, along with more than two dozen state attorneys general who have joined a multi-state group reviewing the transaction. The merger also faces scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest.

“This transaction is all about increasing competition and creating more consumer benefit as a result of gaining additional scale,” Cohen told C-SPAN. Comcast says that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because the two companies don’t compete for consumers in the same markets. Over the last few decades, the nation’s largest cable TV companies have divided up the U.S. by region so that the major players now dominate their respective areas.

Comcast rules in Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. Time Warner Cable dominates in New York City, Dallas and Los Angeles. Cohen says that the combined company would control no more that 30% of the national pay-TV market. (Time Warner Cable was spun off from TIME parent Time Warner in 2009.)

Cable TV represents a shrinking part of the industry. Last year, cable providers lost nearly 2 million video subscriptions, the first full-year decline on record, according to a recent study by research group SNL Kagan. It’s the latest sign that consumers are increasingly “cutting the cord” and gravitating toward Internet-based entertainment options like Netflix and Hulu.

(MORE: Netflix vs. Comcast ‘Net Neutrality’ Spat Erupts After Traffic Deal)

As the Internet has become a crucial tool for commerce, communications and entertainment, companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are increasingly becoming broadband companies. The old distinctions between cable TV, Internet, and phone service are starting to collapse. Millions of Americans now subscribe to bundled packages that combine all three services through a single pipe coming into their homes.

If Comcast buys Time Warner Cable, the company would have nearly 40% of the high-speed wireline broadband Internet market in the U.S., according to industry estimates. Critics of the deal say that would give Comcast an alarming amount of power over the 21st century’s signature communications medium.

Cohen acknowledges that the deal’s implications for the broadband market are “appropriate to think about and discuss,” but argues that it’s “not a very scary story,” due to increasing competition from wireless broadband. “I think it’s indisputable today that wireless is certainly beginning to be an effective competitor and substitute for at least many uses of broadband,” Cohen said. (Harvard Law School professor Susan Crawford, a fierce critic of the deal, disputes that assertion. Wireless broadband service “will not substitute” for high-speed wired access, she told TIME last year.)

Comcast argues that bigger is better. “Sometimes big is a bad thing,” said Cohen. “I acknowledge that. But sometimes big is really important, really necessary and really good. And that would tend to be in high capital expenditure industries, in industries where innovation is fast moving and where you need a lot of investment in R&D and innovation to keep pace. And that is our industry.” He added: “The rationale for this transaction is all about scale. We are going to get bigger.”

(MORE: Susan Crawford. Is Broadband Internet Access a Public Utility?)

Cohen dismissed opponents of the proposed merger as “the same group of people” who have opposed media and telecom consolidation over the last two decades. Their “sky is going to fall” predictions have been “discredited and disproven,” Cohen said. “I have been struck by the absence of rational, knowledgeable voices in this space coming out in opposition or even raising serious questions about the transaction,” Cohen added.

Last month, editors at The Economist magazine wrote a sharply-worded editorial against the deal, urging U.S. officials to “reject a merger that would reduce competition, provide no benefit to consumers and sap the incentive to innovate.” A former FCC commissioner has called the deal “an affront to the public interest.” The New York Times editorial board raised substantive concerns about the deal, as did columnists at The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford, perhaps the deal’s most persuasive critic, argues that broadband Internet access should be viewed as a public utility.

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