Charter tells New York regulators it’ll upgrade redlined residents if it’s allow to buy Time Warner

by Steve Blum • , , ,

As in California, Charter Communications is asking New York state regulators for permission to buy Time Warner cable systems. New York Public Service Commission staff have identified markets where both companies operate, but have not fully built out digital systems, and are recommending, among other things, that Charter be required to upgrade all of its customers – old and new – if the deal is allowed to go through

New Charter should be required to develop a strategic implementation plan to build-out its all-digital network to the remaining unserved or under-served Charter and Time Warner franchise areas in New York. This type of substantive commitment would serve three key objectives: 1) expanding service to rural communities and other unserved areas; 2) expanding service to industrial parks and businesses; and, 3) expanding service to community anchor institutions (e.g., schools, libraries, community centers, municipal buildings, public facilities and hospitals).

The PSC’s authority to do so is based, according to the staff report, on both New York law and on the same section of federal telecoms law that’s central to California’s consideration of the deal. Not surprisingly, Charter disagrees

There is no basis for concluding that reading Section 706(a) [of the federal communications act] to empower 50 different State Commissions to assert regulatory authority over broadband service in connection with any transfer affecting broadband facilities would further the statute’s goals of encouraging removing barriers to infrastructure or encouraging deployment of advanced telecommunications capability. To the contrary, such a circumstance would be flatly inconsistent with the Federal scheme of broadband regulation reaffirmed by the FCC in the Open Internet Order…

The prospect of 50 different State Commissions regulating broadband service via transfer authority creates precisely the type of conflicting regulatory patchwork the FCC sought to avoid, and would clearly deviate from Federal policies aimed at establishing a comprehensive national framework for broadband service.

Nevertheless, Charter did promise in its reply to upgrade an analog-only cable system that it currently operates in New York so that residents “receive the same benefits of all-digital systems that New Charter intends to bring to all other Charter and TWC customers in the State”. That promise is exactly what people in California communities also redlined by Charter are seeking.