Capital Region to host first of five hearings on cable merger

Originally appeared in Times Union
By: Larry Rulison
September 7, 2015

Sessions to focus on Charter’s proposal to acquire Time Warner

The Capital Region will host the first of five public hearings on Charter Communications’ proposed $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

The state Public Service Commission has scheduled the hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Bethlehem Town Hall. A session that will outline details will be held at 6 p.m.

The PSC will be hosting four additional hearings later this month in New York and Buffalo.

This is the second time in two years that local Time Warner customers have been faced with having an out-of-state company attempt to take over TV, phone and Internet service.

Back in 2014, Comcast of Philadelphia sought to acquire Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal that deal fizzled early this year over concerns that Comcast would control too much of the nation’s Internet traffic.
The Charter deal, which emerged in May after the Comcast deal imploded, is not expected to face as much opposition from regulators because Charter, which is known for its relatively cheap Internet rates and consumer-friendly policies, is much smaller than Comcast and does not pose the same anti-trust threats that Comcast did.

Still, consumer advocates have been arguing that mergers of large cable TV and phone companies stifle competition for high-speed Internet access, which has become a critical component of the economy. They have been asking for stricter regulation of the Internet, making it more like a critical public utility than a luxury entertainment service such as cable TV.
Fairfield, Conn.-based Charter will have 19 million Internet and 17 million TV customers in 41 states if the deal is approved.

The PSC’s current four-member board must approve the New York portion of the deal for it to move forward. Other states, including California, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, must also approve the merger.

The PSC must find public “benefits” from the merger. Charter has said that it plans to increase the speed of Internet service in New York and other states, while lowering prices and expanding service to under-served areas of the state.

The commission is expected to vote on the deal by December at the earliest. Charter would like to close the deal by the end of the year.

Two additional public hearings are scheduled for 3 and 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Manhattan Community College and another two hearings will be held at 3 and 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Amherst Municipal Building in Williamsville, outside Buffalo.

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Originally appeared in Associated Press
By: Tali Arbel
July 15, 2015

Netflix, a vocal opponent of Comcast’s failed bid for Time Warner Cable, supports Charter’s quest to do the same in a deal that would create another cable giant.

In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, the online video company said it supports the deal because Charter says it won’t charge companies to connect to its network and reach its customers.

Charter’s policy, spread across the 19.4 million Internet customers that the larger company would serve, would be a “substantial public interest benefit” and would help get online services to consumers and promote innovation, Netflix said.

Charter’s policy and Netflix’s support of it could help sway regulators to approve the Charter deal after the Comcast-Time Warner Cable transaction fell apart in April under pressure from regulators.

Charter Communications Inc. wants to buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House for $67.1 billion to become the country’s No. 3 traditional TV provider and the second-largest home Internet supplier after Comcast.

“It’s certainly a positive for closing the deal, absolutely,” said BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield, and “a nice win for Netflix.” But he there are still roadblocks to regulatory approval for Charter because the government is concerned about the lack of competition in the broadband market.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission declined to comment because the transaction was under review.

After the Comcast deal collapsed because regulators worried that it could impede online video competitors and would have too much power over the nation’s high-speed Internet access, Charter is trying to position itself as a good Internet actor.

It proposed Wednesday that it will continue to let companies connect to its network without paying until the end of 2018. Why does this matter? Netflix Inc. fought with Comcast and other big Internet providers over these commercial arrangements and in 2014 ended up paying Comcast to connect directly to its network after congestion issues hurt video quality for Netflix customers.

The FCC has been concerned about these deals, and it has the power to hear disputes between Internet providers and companies according to its net neutrality rules that went into effect in June.

In another bid to endear itself to government regulators, Charter has said that it will submit disputes over these commercial Internet deals to the agency. It has also promised to roll out faster Internet with no data caps for Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers and said it will abide by the government’s new “net neutrality” rules against blocking and slowing down Internet traffic and creating special paid fast lanes.

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Originally appeared in Times Union
By: Larry Rulison
August 3, 2015


The Business Council of New York State is endorsing Charter Communication’s $55 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable.

The Business Council, which has 2, 400 business members wrote a July 24 letter to the state Public Service Commission saying the deal would be good for both businesses and consumers since Charter is planning to offer higher-speed Internet to Time Warner Cable customers at a cheaper price.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

times union article charter1-600x208

The Retail Council of New York State, the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Mohawk Valley EDGE have also written the PSC in support of the merger.

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