With the hours running out on the current Republican FCC, Charter has asked, and the FCC has granted, the request that it withdraw its petition that the commission sunset two conditions on its Time Warner-Bright House Networks merger.
That petition was one of the issues that appeared to be left hanging as FCC chairman Ajit Pai's tenure draws to a close. Pai has never been a fan of merger stipulations he sees as attempts to regulate via condition.
"At this time, the Bureau will no longer consider filings specific to this petition," said the Wireline Competition Bureau, "but the docket will remain open for additional filings, such as those required by Charter or the Independent Compliance Officer.
Charter has been looking to get out from under the "no charging for interconnection" and "no usage-based/data caps pricing conditions." A court threw out the first, so that request was essentially moot, but the second is still in force. Those conditions were set to expire in May 2023 but Charter wanted them to end in May 2021.
FCC approval could have had a major impact on Charter's over-the-top video strategy. The FCC, in imposing the conditions, said they were to ensure Charter could not “hamper or prevent its current and future online video rivals from expanding, becoming more competitive, or starting up in the first place.” Charter had suggested those OTT rivals hardly need protection from the company given that rival internet service providers have not had similar conditions and the over-the-top marketplace is flourishing.
“The withdrawal of the Charter data caps petition is good news for consumers and open internet advocates," said Incompas CEO Chip Pickering. "Pressure from Congress, consumer groups and small business leaders helped walk back the cable giant, but it’s a clear sign for why we need strong interconnection and open internet policy on the books to prevent these attempts to raise prices and inflate consumers’ bills.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.