California Watchdog Asks PUC to Reject Charter-TWC Merger

An independent consumer watchdog within the California Public Utilities Commission has asked the agency to reject the merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable, adding that if the agency does approve the deal, it should only be done with stiff conditions.

In a 59-page document the Office of Ratepayer Advocates said the Charter-TWC merger would not be in the public interest, quoting another critic of the deal – Dish Network deputy general counsel Jeff Blum – who said “If Comcast’s deal for Time Warner Cable was a Category 5 hurricane, Charter-Time Warner is a Category 4.”

Comcast abandoned its merger with TWC in April after it determined it would not receive regulatory approval for the deal.

Other parties have come out against the merger in recent weeks, including several legislators that feared it would put control of a large portion of the broadband market in too few hands.

The ORA  had similar fears, stating that a combined Charter-TWC would dominate high-speed data service in the state, passing more than 82% of homes in Southern California and would be the only provider satisfying the Federal Communications Commission’s 25 Mbps broadband definition in “the vast majority” of those homes.

While the ORA called for rejection of the merger, it added that if the PUC were to approve the deal, it should include a number of conditions.

Among the organization’s 12 recommended conditions are: making 300 Mbps broadband speeds available throughout its footprint in the state by Dec. 31, 2019; extending broadband availability to no less than 98% of households within each census block in its California footprint at speeds of at least 25 Mbps by the end of 2019; agreeing not to impose data caps and pledging to unbundle CPE for all customers,  including cable modems and set-top boxes; extending eligibility for its low-income broadband offering to all low-income homes in the new company’s footprint, reduce service outages and improve customer service.

The California PUC has said it expects to make a decision on the merger by May 12.