DISH hops in late to California's Charter party

21 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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DISH, the only independent direct broadcast satellite company in the U.S., has been trying to scuttle Charter Communications’ purchase of Time Warner’s and Bright House’s cable systems. Up until today, it’s focused its efforts on the Federal Communications Commission’s review of the deal. Now, though, in kind of a daddy’s not sure, go ask mommy move, it’s asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to get into the proceeding here.

In its filing, DISH says it fears Charter will use its control of the high speed broadband market to kill off competition…

This transaction would permit and motivate the combined company (“New Charter”) to hurt or destroy online video rivals, including the Sling TV over-the- top video service [owned by DISH], through its control over the broadband pipe…

This transaction will create a duopoly in the market for high-speed broadband service (defined as 25 Mbps and above), as it will result in two broadband providers – New Charter and Comcast – controlling about 90 percent of the nation’s high-speed broadband homes between them.

I don’t doubt that DISH worries about the dangers broadband monopolies pose to its online businesses, but stopping a competing pay TV distributor from improving its market position has to figure into its opposition too. If it didn’t, DISH would probably get more mileage out of pushing for stricter network neutrality conditions at the FCC, rather than try to kill it completely at the CPUC, as it seems to be doing.

It’s up the CPUC administrative law judge managing the review to decide whether DISH gets to be a full participant in the proceeding. With the review well along – last week was the deadline for filing testimony, for example – DISH has a tougher case to make than if it had jumped in last summer when this all began.

I’m assisting the City of Gonzales with its effort to upgrade broadband service via the CPUC’s review of the Charter-Time Warner-Bright House deal. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.