Conyers: Make Charter-TWC Terms Durable, Enforceable

House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) told the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department that if they approve the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger with conditions (as most now expect to happen), the merger terms must be "durable and easily enforceable."

Industry sources have confirmed reports that FCC chairman Tom wheeler is expected to circulate a deal approval proposal, with conditions on broadband buildouts and access to programming, within the next few days. The FCC's informal 180-day approval clock on the deal hits the 180-day mark next week.

In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Conyers urged them to continue a close review of the deal and succinctly summed up the cons being touted by deal critics, and the pros offered up by Charter.

The cons are that New Charter could 1) undermine OTT competitors, 2) together with Comcast -- cable ISPs don't generally compete head to head in the same markets -- account for north of 70% of high-speed broadband subs and 3) make it tougher for independent programmers without marquee sports or other programming to get carriage.

Charter counters that it has made commitments to protect online video distributors; vowed to adhere to network neutrality rules regardless of what a court rules in their challenge (Comcast made a similar promise in securing approval of the NBCU deal); committed that 88% of households would have a choice of two broadband providers and declared that it does not have significant programming interests to protect, that it carries diverse networks and has independent programmer support.

Conyers did not mention, but Charter has, that Charter does not charge for interconnection and has no broadband usage caps.

Conyers asked the pair to weigh both sides, but repeated at the end of this letter that conditions on the deal, and there certainly will be some, are "durable and easily enforceable."

Likely conditions on the deal include broadband buildouts, perhaps even overbuilds, and access to online programming.

John Eggerton

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.