Charter-Time Warner Cable Merger Overcomes Final Hurdle

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

California’s Public Utilities Commission signed off on Charter’s acquisition with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, clearing the way for the $66 billion transaction’s closing next week.

The PUC’s greenlight — in a unanimous vote on Thursday — had been expected, but it was the final regulatory hurdle after Charter obtained approval from the FCC last week and the Department of Justice last month.

“We are pleased to have now obtained all approvals,” said Charter President/CEO Tom Rutledge. “We look forward to closing these transactions next week and to begin delivering the many benefits of these transactions to consumers.”

The long-awaited deal makes Charter the nation’s second-largest cable operator behind Comcast Corp. with about 24 million subscribers, including about 17.4 million video subscribers.

The approval from the California PUC had been expected after an administrative law judge gave the deal his backing with conditions, including that the company not impose data caps or usage-based pricing for at least three years. It will also be required to expand its high speed broadband service and to extend upgraded service to areas that lack coverage. Charter will have to comply with the FCC’s net neutrality rules — potentially significant as those regulations are being challenged in a federal appellate court.

Some of the PUC’s conditions mirror those of the FCC, but the federal agency also prohibits Charter from preventing rival online video services from creating their own channel bundles.

The California PUC and the FCC also block Charter from charging fees to companies as the price of connecting to its network. Such “interconnection” fees have become an issue with the growth of Netflix and Amazon, which are heavy users of bandwith.