CPUC broadband oversight might yet rise out of the wreckage of the Comcast deal

6 May 2015 by Steve Blum
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The five members of the California Public Utilities Commission might get a chance to vote on the Comcast-Time Warner-Charter mega-merger after all. That deal is still dead, but opponents are pushing for a decision anyway. As I wrote last week, there is a pile of work that was done and some controversial policy that was put on the table, not least the assertion by some commissioners and staff that the CPUC has the authority to consider the impact of its decisions on California’s broadband infrastructure and service.

The administrative law judge handling the preliminary review ruled that a draft decision denying permission for the transactions that was proposed by commissioner Mike Florio is still active, despite the collapse of the deal. ALJ Karl Bemesderfer said in his ruling that the arguments made by the deal’s opponents were persuasive…

[They] argue that only Commissioner Florio can stay the comment cycle on his [proposed decision] and that, in any case, allowing comments to be filed and permitting the [proposed decision] to be voted on at a full Commission hearing is the appropriate way to bring this proceeding to a close. In particular, they note that allowing the [proposed decision] to proceed to a decision preserves the record in this proceeding for the benefit of the Commission and future participants in similar cases.

Florio can still pull his proposal off the table if he chooses. It was scheduled to come up for a vote at Thursday’s commission meeting, but that’s all but certain to be pushed back a couple of weeks, at least.

I hope commissioners do vote eventually. We need a formal decision, one way or the other, on whether the CPUC will take on the job of overseeing broadband infrastructure and service in California.

Update 6 May 2015 – the CPUC has in fact bumped Florio’s proposal back another two weeks.