California's blessing for Charter-Time Warner on track for tomorrow

11 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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Holy orders or holy hand grenade?

Charter Communications is inching closer to gaining the California Public Utilities Commission’s okay to buy cable systems owned by Time Warner and Bright House. The CPUC administrative law judge handling the case published a revised version of his original draft decision approving the deal late yesterday, and there were no major changes.

The revised draft reviewed objections raised by a number of organisations that continue to oppose the deal, as well as responses from Charter offering additional concessions, such as promising to upgrade all customers to 300 Mbps capability by 2019. The revision rolled that and a few other points into the conditions attached to approval, and tightened up enforcement provisions – CPUC staff will be able to audit compliance with the terms of the decision and require Charter to hand over data regarding its business dealings in California upon request.

But on the whole, it’s pretty much the same yes that was written into the original draft.

The Federal Communications Commission released the full text of its decision approving the deal yesterday, too. It’s 300-plus pages and I haven’t pounded through it all yet, but the top line is that it appears to track with the press release put out last week. The seven year term of conditions imposed by the FCC might turn out to be just five years – Charter can apply for early release from the requirements – but compliance with common carrier rules and bans on data caps and other unpopular service terms are in there.

Later today, probably in the early afternoon, the CPUC will post the hold list for tomorrow’s meeting. That’ll be the next clue as to whether the Charter deal is still on track. If a commissioner has serious concerns about something on the agenda, he or she can put a hold on it and bump it to the next meeting. Uncertainty over the outcome of the vote might be such a concern, or it could be one commissioner wanting to revisit some of the language in the draft. We’ll have to wait and see, but at this point a vote tomorrow seems likely and the result appears to be yes.

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.