Charter offers to upgrade Californian systems if CPUC okays deal

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Charter Communications is willing to accept a long list of conditions on its purchase of Time Warner and Bright House cable systems in California, albeit not as long a list as the groups that are opposing the deal want.

In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, Charter offered to upgrade 70,000 Californian homes from 1980s style analog-only TV service to full digital broadband and video capabilities. That includes systems in the Salinas Valley that it has committed to upgrade, as a result of a negotiated settlement with the City of Gonzales and Monterey County. It will also build out service to another 80,000 homes that it or Time Warner or Bright House don’t currently reach. Other commitments offered include WiFi hotspots, a $14.99 per month broadband package for low income households and free service for some government customers.

The CPUC’s office of ratepayer advocates has a number of consumer protection measures it wants from the deal, and Charter says it’ll agree to some, but not all, of them. Similarly, unions and advocacy groups have their own wish lists, which are addressed to one degree or another in Charter’s offer.

Charter doesn’t get to set the terms of any eventual approval. That’s a decision that’ll ultimately be made by the commission. But the practice in past cases – Frontier’s acquisition of Verizon wireline systems is an example – is for the applicant and the opposing parties to negotiate a compromise on as many points as possible. The more agreement there is, the easier and faster approval comes. That point seems to be getting closer both in California and at the federal level.

I’m assisting the City of Gonzales with its efforts at the CPUC and its negotiations with Charter. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.