CPUC okays sale of Suddenlink to Altice

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Not a big footprint in California.

UPDATE: the day after the CPUC approved the deal, the FCC did likewise, adding a condition requiring Altice to guarantee law enforcement and spy agency access to its network.

Altice has permission to take over control of Suddenlink’s cable systems in California. Without discussion, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the transaction at its meeting on Thursday. According to the decision

The proposed acquisition occurs entirely at the parent ownership level and the Applicants indicate that the transaction will be “seamless and transparent to consumers in terms of current services, rates, terms and conditions.”17 Cebridge will continue to operate as Suddenlink under its current Commission authority and will continue to provide the services it currently provides to its existing customer base…

We find that Altice has sufficient managerial and technical expertise to operate Cebridge and that its acquisition by Altice will permit Cebridge and Cequel to become stronger competitors in California’s telecommunications marketplace. This will be favorable for the public and consumers, as well as existing customers.

No objections were filed with the CPUC, although the Humboldt County board of supervisors did send a protest letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which is still considering the deal. The central issue is a dispute over public access television fees, which is really a dispute between local governments and the state legislature: when statewide video franchises were established, public access fees were set at 1% of revenue, while local governments in Humboldt want 3%. Good luck with that.

Suddenlink will be the first U.S. acquisition for Altice, which is a force to be reckoned with in the European cable industry. It’s moving relatively smoothly through the regulatory review process, largely because it’s not a huge transaction. Altice’s second deal, to buy Cablevision, will be more contentious. But that doesn’t directly involve California, since Cablevision doesn’t operate here.

CPUC decision approving Altice purchase of control of Suddenlink, 17 December 2015
FCC decision approving Altice purchase of control of Suddenlink, 18 December 2015
National security agreement between Altice and federal justice department, 11 December 2015
Petition from federal justice department requesting approval, 11 December 2015