Let's settle this behind closed doors Comcast tells CPUC

12 March 2015 by Steve Blum
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If it was good enough for PG&E, it should be swell for Comcast.

Comcast, and its would-be merger and market swap partners, don’t like any of the conditions that would be imposed on the deal, if a proposed decision by a California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge is approved. Not surprisingly, in a 60 page objection, the so-called Joint Applicants – Comcast and friends might be a better description – run through the 25 conditions proposed conditions and find fault with every one.

The primary problem, as Comcast sees it, is that the CPUC doesn’t have the power to impose any conditions at all. Partly because some of the conditions look a lot like common carrier regulations that the FCC doesn’t intend to enforce (never mind that those rules aren’t public yet), partly because others are outside the scope of its authority and partly because the administrative law judge’s reasoning is, well, just wrong.

But Comcast is offering to give the CPUC a break, in effect saying if you do it our way, we won’t have to bother ignoring you

Joint Applicants…do not expect the final decision to include objectionable conditions. Joint Applicants are confident that they can satisfy the Commission’s legitimate public interest objectives without there having to be any disputed conditions and without the need to appeal or otherwise challenge the order…this could be accomplished through a combination of conditions that are clearly within the scope of the CPUC’s jurisdiction and voluntary commitments. Parties can and have frequently agreed to voluntary conditions in merger dockets, and in certain voluntary programs.

Funny thing, though. Comcast doesn’t mention any particular conditions that it’s willing to abide by, just that the…

Joint Applicants plan to work through the ex parte process with the Commission toward a set of conditions that address concerns identified by the Proposed Decision – including conditions that Comcast would agree to voluntarily.

The ex parte process generally involves closed door meetings between CPUC staff and commissioners, with the items discussed – usually a brief and uninformative summary – publicly disclosed.