FCC approves Charter/Time Warner Cable merger, Bright House Networks buy

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on May 6 gave its approval to Charter Communications, Inc.'s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. as well as it planned acquisition of Bright House Networks. The only remaining hurdle is approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to vote on the matter May 12.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on May 6 gave its approval to Charter Communications, Inc.'s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable Inc. as well as it planned acquisition of Bright House Networks. The only remaining hurdle is approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to vote on the matter May 12.

The California Administrative Law Judge last month recommended that the PUC give its blessing.

The FCC said it would impose restrictions on Charter as a condition of its approval. The Commission said it would reveal these restrictions in the future. However, Charter indicated that many of the conditions reflect concessions the company previously indicated it was prepared to make. These include:

  • no data caps or usage-based billing
  • a commitment to build out high-speed broadband service to unserved and underserved customers
  • offer of a low-income broadband program
  • settlement-free peering.

The FCC did not release how its five commissioners voted. However, news reports indicated that the three Democrats (Chairman Thomas Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel) voted in favor, Republican Michael O'Rielly voted to approve the deal but dissented on the condition, and fellow Republican Ajit Pai voted against the deal because of the conditions and his perception that Chairman Wheeler had abused his power in setting them.

"I want to thank Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai and O'Rielly for their thorough review of these transactions," said Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter Communications. "The significant benefits of these transactions are clear: greater competition, more consumer and OTT friendly broadband policies, broader access to affordable broadband, and added U.S. jobs. The conditions are largely extensions of the longstanding consumer friendly values and practices of our company, and based on the commitments we put forward during the review process. Charter will be a stronger competitor in the broadband and video markets, well positioned to deliver these benefits and more to consumers."

Charter announced in May 2015 its plans to merge with Time Warner Cable in a $78.7 billion deal, as well as adjust a previously announced plan to acquire Bright House Networks (see "Charter goes for two with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks acquisitions"). The merger with TWC came after Comcast's attempts to complete a similar combination failed to receive regulatory approval (see "All eyes on Charter in wake of Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger failure").

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