Charter cries for exclusive rights in public housing

29 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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Charter Communications still doesn’t get it. California law does not grant it ownership of public housing residents. But boiled down, that’s what it’s telling the California Public Utilities Commission.

Three years ago, the California legislature passed a bill that set aside $20 million to pay for installing broadband facilities in public housing properties. Governor Brown signed it into law. And once you trim away all the bureaucratese about defining what, exactly, a public housing operator is, it’s a very simple bill. A public housing operator can apply for the money if it…

…has not denied a right of access to any broadband provider that is willing to connect a broadband network to the facility for which the grant or loan is sought.

That’s it.

Charter is screaming from the rafters that it has installed coax in ten public housing properties. It’s protesting because the property owners did give them “right of access” to serve residents there.

Legally, that’s all that matters. The protest letters it sent to the CPUC amount to a not particularly coherent rant about other broadband subsidy programs and Charter’s sincere intention to come up with service plans that public housing residents can afford…

[The property owner] claims that its residents cannot afford Charter’s service. But Charter publicly committed to offering a low cost broadband service with speeds of 30/4 Mbps at a price of $14.99 per month within twelve months of completion of its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. This merger closed May 18th, 2016.

Right. A year from now, Charter will offer a lower – but not lowest – cost broadband package to qualifying households. Except living in public housing isn’t one of the qualification criteria. But if residents can qualify, great, Charter will offer a competitive package. Nothing wrong with that. Unless, apparently, you think you’re entitled to a monopoly.

Charter’s agonised protest letters are nothing more than a tantrum. It has no right to a monopoly in public housing and certainly no justification to demand it.