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Charter to Pay $640,000 to Settle Retail Modem Flap

Charter Communications is on the hook for $640,000 following a Consent Decree from the FCC‘s Media Bureau that settles its probe into allegations that the MSO had prevented high-speed Internet subs from using cable modems bought at retail over a prolonged period.

The Bureau started to investigate in July 2015 after Zoom claimed that Charter was infringing the rights of Charter subs to attach “non-harmful” cable modems to its network. The investigation found that for a period of about two years, starting in 2012, Charter customer service reps were instructed to tell subscribers that they would no longer be permitted to attach new customer-bought modems, and later added models to its list only after they passed a litany of tests “which did not relate to harm to the network or theft of service.” Additionally, Charter’s website indicated that for new and plan-switching customers that the MSO would also not allow customer-owned modems on the MSO’s network.

In addition to the $640,000, the settlement calls for Charter to adopt a three-year compliance plan with reporting requirements, has revised its cable modem testing procedures, including performing only three weeks of limited testing.

Per the compliance plan, Charter may prohibit the attachment of a retail modem under a set of specific conditions, including if it does not support DOCSIS 3.0 or higher, doesn’t support 802.11i-based encryption, has integrated MoCA capability. Charter also has 14 days to notify the Bureau if it won’t allow any retail cable modem to attach to its network.

Modem makers such as Zoom must obtain DOCSIS certification from CableLabs to clear modems for retail sale to show that they are interoperable with DOCSIS-qualified network gear.

Zoom, which recently began to sell retail modems under the Motorola brand thanks to an exclusive, five-year licensing deal originally signed with Google last year, had asked the FCC to deny the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger primarily over the retail cable modem issue.

The Consent Decree,spotted earlier by Ars Technica, was adopted April 25 and released May 10.