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Charter/TWC deal set for approval

The FCC and Justice Department are set to approve Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time Warner Cable following the circulation of an Order by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for an FCC vote to support the deal. Wheeler has imposed conditions that he says “will directly benefit consumers by bringing and protecting competition to the video marketplace and increasing broadband deployment”.

Terms that Charter has accepted will last seven years, longer than usual when companies make deals with the government to win regulatory approval.

Should there be no additional delays at Federal level, Charter would be in a position to close the transaction following the anticipated approval by the California Public Utilities Commission in May.

According to Renata Hesse, head of the Justice’s Antitrust Division, the conditions that DOJ and the FCC required ensure that Charter “will not have the power to choke off this important source of disruptive competition and deny consumers the benefits of innovation and new services,” with Wheeler suggesting that the cumulative impact of the conditions will be to provide additional protection for new forms of video programming services offered over the Internet.

The Stop Mega Cable Coalition, in a Statement, said it appreciated the DOJ and FCC’s “thorough and thoughtful review” of the proposed merger, suggesting that the conditions proposed by Chairman Wheeler represented an important first step towards protecting the interests of consumers and preserving competition in the cable and broadband marketplaces.

“While the draft order circulated today would target a number of key issues tied to Charter’s mega merger, it still falls short of addressing all of the threats to competition and consumers posed by this transaction. Among other things, the conditions proposed in the draft order do not fully prevent Charter from using its dominant position in the marketplace to thwart competition from over-the-top (OTT) streaming services and to stifle competitors in underserved, rural communities. For example, Charter should be required to offer a stand-alone broadband service that would enable consumers wishing to ‘cut the cord’ to have that option. As the merger review proceeds at the FCC, our members urge the Commission to consider the public interest above all, and to impose conditions that truly solve for the competitive harms presented by this merger.” it concluded.

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