The California Public Utilities Commission kicked the Comcast can down the road a month. It was supposed to take up two competing proposals for closing out Comcast’s failed purchase of Time Warner’s cable systems and market swaps with Charter this week, but the decision was pushed off to the commission’s 23 July 2015 meeting. A third alternative is also expected to be on the agenda that day.
The options in front of the CPUC are…
- Approve the transaction, even though its no longer on the table, with a long list of conditions. Doing so would be a definitive statement by the CPUC that 1. it believes it proper to consider the effect of proposed telecoms deals on the broadband market in California, 2. detailed, if temporary, conditions regarding broadband service will be attached to those deals if it deems it appropriate and 3. given those conditions, it’s willing to allow 86% of California’s broadband market to belong to one company.
- Reject the deal, in an equally moot way, and simply set a precedent for considering broadband impacts in its decision.
- Duck the whole issue and just say never mind. The record would be preserved for the next time around and advocacy groups would still get paid for their efforts, but no precedent would be set.
The commission should take option #2 – establish its right to consider broadband impacts in its deliberations and say that monopoly (or, in some cases, duopoly) control of the broadband service that’s available to the vast majority of Californian homes is unacceptable. With three similar, if smaller, deals on the table – Charter buying Time Warner and Bright House, Frontier taking over Verizon’s wireline systems – it’s an important decision to take.