Game on for Charter deal as CPUC meets in Sacramento

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The decision should come later this morning, and it’s looking increasingly like the California Public Utilities Commission will approve Charter Communication’s purchase of Time Warner and Bright House cable systems in California.

It won’t skate through on the consent agenda – the long list of non-controversial decisions the CPUC (and most other public agencies) take with a single, usually unanimous vote. It was originally placed there, but was officially pulled off yesterday afternoon, when last minute revisions to today’s agenda were posted. Not a surprise. Even if the commissioners are singing in five part harmony on it, a decision this big calls for at least a pro forma discussion and a formal vote.

What didn’t happen yesterday is even more important. Individual commissioners can put a hold on items they’d like to either revise or explore further. They can also put alternative decisions on the table, if they think the call should go in the other direction. Neither happened yesterday. Although alternatives and hold requests can be rolled out at the beginning of the meeting – scheduled for 9:30 a.m. – that’s not the sort of chaos that you’d think commissioners would want to put on display in Sacramento, where they’re meeting today. With bills aimed at abolishing the CPUC and allowing AT&T to escape from meaningful regulatory oversight creeping through the California assembly, now would be good time to look buttoned down.

The absence of procedural maneuvers and the relatively minor revisions made to the proposed yes decision released yesterday doesn’t necessarily mean all five commissioners agree. But it does point to the likelihood that at least three do, and that’s all it takes.

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.