CPUC offered opportunity to duck broadband responsibilities

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The third way.

The California Public Utilities Commission has a third option for closing out the failed Comcast-Time Warner-Charter mega mash up. In response to a request from the companies involved, a CPUC administrative law judge has drafted yet another proposed decision that basically calls it all off, with a couple of housekeeping conditions.

Chief among those conditions is a requirement that the companies turn over digital copies of documents they previously provided to the Federal Communications Commission. CPUC staff had access to that information, but only through a temporary online system that’ll disappear along with the merger. The idea is to keep the information on hand when it comes time to review future deals, like Charter’s latest bids to buy Time Warner and Bright House

In the current proceeding, parties provided large amounts of information relating to the issues examined in this proceeding that may also be relevant to future Commission proceedings. Such issues include, but are not limited to, market power, consumer protection, service quality, and competition in the broadband market. Given that the documents received in this proceeding are public records, even if some are not open to public inspection, it is reasonable for the Commission to order the entire record of this proceeding, including documents under seal, be available for use in relevant future proceedings.

The CPUC won’t vote on this latest draft for at least a month. Next week, commissioners are scheduled to take up the original proposal – approve the merger with temporary conditions – and an alternate, offered by commissioner, Mike Florio that would reject the deal outright.

The big difference between the two already on the table and this latest one is precedent: both the original approval draft and Florio’s alternate would bake into the record the commission’s declaration that this kind of transaction has to be evaluated, in part, on the effect it would have on California’s broadband market. As even yesterday’s third option acknowledges, the work is done and ready for a decision. The commissioners should embrace it, not duck it.