Charter and Comcast could control 70% of U.S. broadband market

by Steve Blum • , , ,

More consolidation.

Ars Technica has crunched the numbers, and reached the conclusion that if Charter Communications is allowed to buy cable systems owned by Time Warner and Bright House, it will end up with monopoly control of 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up broadband service for about a quarter of U.S. households, and that when combined with Comcast’s footprint, service to the majority of homes will be controlled by one of two companies

Charter said in November that it would serve 23 percent of the nation’s 25Mbps-and-up broadband subscribers if it can buy TWC and BHN. Comcast has about 47.6 percent based on our calculations, pushing the two companies’ total over 70 percent. The vast majority of Comcast subscribers have speeds of at least 25Mbps…

Charter’s “less than 30 percent” quote came in May 2015, and the company followed up with its more precise estimate of 23 percent in December.

A Charter spokesperson told Ars that it calculated the 23 percent estimate by comparing the merging companies’ December 2014 subscriber numbers to the December 2014 FCC data, so that means the expanded Charter would have about 9.58 million subscribers with 25Mbps speeds.

That benchmark was set by the Federal Communications Commission as the minimum speed necessary to make use of advanced, 21st century applications, content and other broadband-delivered services.

On the other hand, 70% isn’t as bad as 90%, which is the figure that opponents of the Charter transaction are citing. The Ars Technica article attributes the difference to older data used by the coalition of groups that want the deal killed.

In California though, the figure is likely to be in the 80% range. The estimate made during last year’s review of Comcast’s failed buyout of Charter, Time Warner and Bright House systems in California was 84% control of the high speed market, and newer figures calculated during the review of the current Charter proposal indicate not much has changed here.