CPUC commissioners say no back room deals for Comcast

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Don’t even think about going there.

Responding to fears that the CPUC would grant Comcast its wish and cut a deal in private to approve its proposed mega merger and market swap with Time-Warner and Charter, several commissioners publicly said no way at their meeting in San Francisco last week.

Carla Peterman is the commissioner assigned to manage the merger review process. She said she’s following the commission’s ex parte rules which strictly limit one-on-one discussions…

Someone expressed some concern that some parties might have unique access through the ex parte process to kind of negotiate or influence decisions and particularly there was a mention of the Comcast Time-Warner proceeding. And so as the assigned commissioner to that proceeding I really wanted to address that head on now in case, you know, it came before all of you and say that’s simply not true. All parties, you know, get the same treatment from me in ex parte meetings and as the assigned commissioner I have conducted this proceeding in an open and transparent manner.

Fellow commissioner Catherine Sandoval said Comcast doesn’t understand how business is done, or at least supposed to be done, in California…

It may be, and being familiar with the FCC proceedings, that perhaps other agencies do negotiate conditions but we don’t have that process. Basically, there’s a process for comments…I think this was an issue that was created by the confusion of one of the parties who was expressing their desire that seemed to be inconsistent with what our rules are.

It’s a particularly touchy subject right now. The CPUC is under fire from the legislature and the public about back channel discussions regarding pending matters that some commissioners had with PG&E. Former CPUC president Michael Peevey is facing a criminal investigation, and others might be too. New president Michael Picker has promised in very direct terms that those kinds of dealings will not be tolerated.