New York fines Charter $13 million for stalled upgrades

21 September 2017 by Steve Blum
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The New York State State Public Service Commission has slapped a $13 million fine on Charter Communications, as punishment for missing broadband expansion requirements attached to regulatory approval of its purchase of Time Warner Cable systems last year. According to a story by Kendra Chamberlain in FierceCable, Charter’s build out in New York fell far short…

The agreement included statewide speed upgrades reaching 100 Mbps by 2018 and 300 Mbps by 2019, and a timeline for building out its broadband network in chunks of over 36,000 new residents and businesses per year, to be completed by 2020.

Charter was able to upgrade broadband service speeds to 100 Mbps across New York ahead of the 2018 deadline set by its agreement, but has been slow to roll out service to new households and businesses. In its first year, Charter passed just over 15,000 new premises, less than half of what it promised.

Charter has similar obligations here in California, albeit without annual targets. The California Public Utilities Commission required Charter to upgrade all remaining analog systems to “an all-digital platform with download speeds of not less than 60 Mbps” within two and a half years, with a bump to 100 Mbps in three years, as well as extending lines to 80,000 new homes and, specifically, to convert its systems in the City of Gonzales and elsewhere in Monterey County to full digital capabilities.

Charter has already upgraded some systems in San Bernardino County, ahead of a threatened fiber to the home project, and already has construction crews in the field in Monterey County. Whether it’s performing to the same level in parts of California where there’s no pressure from competitive providers or motivated local governments is an open question. The first deadline doesn’t come until next year, and the CPUC isn’t likely to begin any enforcement action – or, perhaps, even a due diligence process – on its own before then.

I assisted the City of Gonzales with its efforts at the CPUC and its negotiations with Charter. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.