USTelecom Exits Coalition Challenging Charter-Time Warner Cable Merger

Time Warner Cable Charter Communications
Courtesy of Time Warner Cable Charter Communications

USTelecom, an association representing broadband providers, said that it’s dropping out of a coalition formed to challenge the proposed merger of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable.

In a statement, USTelecom said that it’s exiting because “the coalition is no longer aligned with USTelecom’s policy positions.”

USTelecom said that it had “made clear it does not oppose the merger but suggested some common-sense conditions for the Federal Communications Commission to consider as it weighs the impact of the transaction on consumers.”

Last month, USTelecom, Dish Network, Public Knowledge and a number of other groups launched the Stop Mega Cable Coalition, holding a conference call with reporters in which Jeff Blum, a Dish executive, compared the merger proposal to that of Comcast with TW Cable. That merger proposal was abandoned last year when it became clear that it would not get the greenlight from federal regulators.

“Comcast was a category 5 hurricane; Charter is a category 4. It is still really bad,” Blum said.

Although Dish Network believes that the deal should be blocked, some members of the coalition made it clear to reporters that they were concerned about the merger, but stopped short of calling on regulators to try to stop it.

 USTelecom cited an FCC filing from November in which it said that the merger “would more likely further centralize control over broadband and video services in the hands of a select few incumbent cable providers.” They called for a condition that would prohibit Charter-TW Cable from giving or receiving preferential treatment from other cable providers. They also proposed a condition to limit the influence of John Malone, who is chairman of Liberty Broadband, an investor in Charter and its biggest shareholder, and is also the largest shareholder in Discovery Communications.
A spokeswoman for the coalition said, “We appreciate the role that USTelecom played in launching this effort and, more importantly, appreciate its persuasive FCC filing outlining some of the harms of this merger.  Stop Mega Cable remains a large and diverse coalition that will continue to aggressively raise awareness about the enormous threat the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger poses to consumers, innovation and competition.”

At the time the coalition was unveiled, Charter said that it “should come as no surprise that Dish and other parties seeking to use the regulatory review process to extract concessions are also engaging in tired PR tactics to further their self interests. Their arguments against the pending transactions are baseless.”