FCC formally approves Charter deal, details to follow

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Following a stream of news leaks, the Federal Communications Commission announced on Friday that it has approved Charter Communication’s purchase of Time Warner and Bright House cable systems. No details about conditions or other restrictions were given. According to the FCC press release

The Commission [on Thursday] approved — with conditions — the Application filed by Charter Communications, Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., and Advance/Newhouse Partnership approval to transfer control of certain licenses and authorizations from Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to Charter Communications.

An Order detailing the Commission’s reasoning and the conditions will be issued in the coming days.

That’s always the problem with FCC actions. Draft decisions are kept secret, although political allies and favored lobbyists seem to have access. Commissioners will cast votes based on drafts they’ve read, but final language isn’t settled until the published version comes out, often weeks later.

An earlier press release by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler claimed that usage-based pricing and data caps would be banned for seven years, and programming restrictions were to be imposed. That seemed to be backed up by court papers filed by the federal justice department. Those conditions, however, are reported to have been too much for republican commissioner Ajit Pai, who was the sole no vote on a 4 to 1 decision.

The last hurdle for Charter’s purchase is the California Public Utilities Commission. It’s scheduled to vote on a draft decision at its meeting on Thursday. If approved, it would require Charter to meet a number of conditions, including upgrading analog systems in California to full digital capability.

I’m assisting the City of Gonzales with its efforts at the CPUC and its negotiations with Charter. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.