New Jersey Okays Charter-TWC

Charter has gotten the OK from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to merge with Time Warner Cable, provided it spends on customer service, maintains open Internet protections and has no data caps for at least three years. That approval isn't quite as important as the same call from the FCC and DOJ, but it is a step in the right direction that Charter was celebrating Wednesday.

“The Board is satisfied that its approval of this merger will afford customers with improved customer service and access to increased broadband speeds,” New Jersey Board of Public Utilities president Richard Mroz said in a statement. “In addition, we are happy that as a result of the merger the company will establish a low-income broadband program for households with school-age children and seniors, while also protecting current Time Warner Cable employees and maintaining its local office.”

"We are grateful to the Board of Public Utilities and its staff, as well as the State of New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel for their hard work during this important review process," said Adam Falk, senior VP, state government affairs for Charter. "The New Jersey BPU approval is another important step towards closing our transactions. We are very pleased with the confidence in our company and our commitments to our future customers demonstrated by the actions taken today."

The approval came with a price—more than a half-dozen conditions, including spending at least three quarters of a million dollars on customer service improvements, and notice and explanations of any cuts of more than 15% of the New Jersey workforce. Other conditions are:

• "Charter to offer a Low-Income Broadband Program within 15 months that provides service at $14.99 a month, including a modem, at speeds of 30 Mps download/4 Mbps upload for households with children eligible for the National School Lunch Program or Seniors 65 or older eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

• "The continuation of Time Warner Cable’s Everyday Low Price $14.99 Broadband Service to existing customers for 3 years and new Charter customers for a period 2 years;

• Charter is to continue to offer Time Warner Cable’s Maxx Broadband offering with speeds up to 300 Mbps for 3 years;

• Charter will continue its practice of no data caps and providing Open Internet Protection per FCC requirements for 3 years;

• Charter to take on the liability of Time Warner Cable for pending 2003 rate appeals pending before the Federal Communications Commission.

As part of the approval, Time Warner Cable agreed to pay $300,000 to settle any outstanding alleged violations of board "Orders, Statutes, and Regulations."

TWC has about 30,000 subs and between 35 and 40 employees in the state.

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.