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.