The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to circulate a draft proposal this week for approving the mega cable merger, with some conditions. A majority of the five FCC commissioners must vote in favor of the agreement for the deal to win approval. The Journal reported that the FCC’s expected action is a signal that the Justice Department, which has also been reviewing the merger, is prepared to also give its blessing.
Among the conditions expected would be provisions relating to Charter’s broadband service offerings and limits on the company’s ability to prevent cable programmers from selling their channels to rival digital distributors. The impact of a bulked-up Charter on the nascent market for streaming channels has been a focus of the debate around the deal that would make Charter the second-largest cable operation behind Comcast.
In addition to Time Warner Cable, Charter is also poised to acquire the smaller Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion, bringing the enlarged company’s subscriber count to 17.3 million video subscribers and 19.4 million broadband subs.
Charter, with backing from cable mogul John Malone’s Liberty Broadband, swooped in last year to cut a deal with Time Warner Cable after Comcast’s deal to buy TW Cable was scrapped in the face of overwhelming opposition in Washington.