CPUC takes the Comcast party out of the backroom

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

It’s not official yet, but you can safely bet that the California Public Utilities Commission won’t be voting this Thursday on whether or not to approve the proposed Comcast-Time Warner-Charter mega merger and market swap. The CPUC posted an announcement yesterday that another “all parties” meeting will be held in Los Angeles in April to try to thrash out the three-cornered fight over the deal.

Comcast and its presumed partners want the transactions to be rubber-stamped with no conditions, consumer advocacy groups – including the CPUC’s office of ratepayer advocates – say it should be killed outright, and two other groups – the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and Caltel, a lobbying organisation for competitive phone companies – want the conditions, at least those that benefit their respective interests.

A CPUC administrative law judge has drafted a proposed decision that would allow the deal to go through, but with a list of 25 conditions include rates, services offered, access by competitors and a low cost Internet access program for low income households that could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

This will be the second all parties meeting. The first was held last month in San Francisco. Comcast wanted to negotiate terms behind closed doors, but the two commissioners scheduled to be there – Carla Peterman and Catherine Sandoval – spoke up at the last CPUC meeting to say that wasn’t going to happen and the right way to do it is with all the interested parties in the room. It’s open to the public and scheduled to run four hours on the afternoon of 15 April 2015.