Ergen Tells FCC to Deny Charter-TWC

WASHINGTON — In a Dec. 1 meeting with almost two dozen top Federal Communications Commission staffers, Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said that the Charter Communications-Time Warner Cable merger, as proposed, should be denied.

Pulling no punches, Ergen claimed the combined company could “degrade” or “destroy” online video rivals, including his company’s Sling TV over-the-top subscription service.

Ergen, whose company also operates the No. 2 U.S. satellite-TV provider, focused on arguments the deal would hurt the online video market, the protection of which is a key FCC priority under chairman Tom Wheeler.

According to an FCC filing on the meeting, Ergen said the deal would create a “suffocating duopoly,” with two broadband providers (New Charter and Comcast) controlling almost 90% of high-speed broadband homes.

Ergen said New Charter would be a complex gatekeeper and potential saboteur of online video distributors that no behavioral conditions could remedy.

“The applicants’ commitments are inadequate to mitigate the harm to consumers, competition, and innovation that would result from the merger as presently constructed,” he and other Dish executives told the FCC assemblage.

“With minimum broadband speeds of 60 Mbps and no data caps, no usage-based billing, no contracts and settlement-free interconnection, Charter is an industry leader in how to treat broadband consumers and online video distributors like Netflix," Charter responded in a statement.

"Claims that New Charter and Comcast would create a duopoly are baseless; New Charter would serve only 23% of broadband subscribers — a smaller percentage than Comcast serves today and less than half of the percentage Comcast-TWC would have served, and the companies have different strategies on issues including data caps, usage-based billing, contracts, interconnection and customer equipment.”

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.