Charter won't promise to offer broadband in redlined communities

29 June 2015 by Steve Blum
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This isn’t where the other 99% live.

If you live in the bottom 1% of Charter Communications service area, you’re not getting broadband access or, indeed, anything other than poor analog video service from the company. The message from Charter is those redlined communities – among the poorest and most isolated in California – won’t be upgraded to 21st century digital systems anytime soon.

Charter tries to weasel its way around that issue in its initial filing with the Federal Communications Commission, as it seeks permission to buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. It starts out by saying “Charter is 99% digital” and making an impressive sounding promise to upgrade any substandard systems it buys…

New Charter will invest in an all-digital system in Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ service areas, completing the digitization within 30 months of closing, thereby freeing up capacity for more high definition and on-demand channels and increased broadband speeds.

But in a footnote, Charter gives itself 1% wiggle room on that promise. Just like it gives itself 1% wiggle room on delivering on its all digital pitch in its current network.

It seems like a tiny gap – and Charter offers no evidence that its digital divide is in fact that small – but if you live in one of its analog-only service areas, it’s a 100% failure, not 1% or whatever it actually is. That includes several in California’s Salinas Valley, where 100,000 people lack access to Internet service that meets minimum standards set by either the California Public Utilities Commission or the FCC. Charter redlines those communities because its expected return on investment isn’t high enough.

In effect, Charter is asking the FCC for permission to extend its redlining practices to communities served by Time Warner and Bright House. The FCC should say no.