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FCC's Pai: Charter Decision Was About Prioritizing Deployment

FCC chairman Ajit Pai says making Charter overbuild service as part of its deal to buy Time Warner Cable back in 2015 worked against his goal of universal deployment

“My top priority is making sure that any American who wants high-speed Internet access is able to get it," he said Monday. "Today, we take another step toward achieving that goal."

That was how Pai explained the FCC's vote Friday to modify the Charter-Time Warner Cable decision to remove the requirement that Charter overbuild a million homes that can already get broadband. Instead, those can be buildouts to where there is no service, part of a two million deployment requirement in the deal, he said.

“Last year, Charter Communications agreed to build broadband out to two million new customers as part of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the FCC appended an ‘overbuild’ condition to the order, requiring that half of those new locations be already served by another provider. Since these one million overbuilt deployments would be credited against the total, it would substantially reduce buildout to unserved areas. This is like telling two people you will buy them lunch, ordering two entrées, and then sending both to just one of your companions."

“This condition was not and is not in the public interest, and it runs directly against the goal of promoting greater Internet access for all Americans."

He pointed out that the change did not affect the requirement that Charter build out to those two million new locations.

“Following our decision today, Charter Communications is still obligated to build out to two million new locations. The difference now is that the beneficiaries will be consumers currently on the wrong side of the digital divide," he said.

"That’s a major difference, and one that will go a long way toward helping deliver online opportunity to all Americans.”

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.