PSC rescinds Charter merger approval

New York regulators and the cable giant have been locked in a battle over the rollout of broadband internet in rural parts of the state

New York regulators and the cable giant have been locked in a battle over the rollout of broadband internet in rural parts of the state

The Federal Communications Commission in May 2016 voted to approve Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks, so the PSC's Friday decision means Charter is no longer welcome to operate in NY. The company must provide uninterrupted service while the state transitions to a new service provider, the commission said.

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) released a strongly worded statement about the issue, saying the company has made it clear it has no intention of fulfilling its half of the public benefits that were required for the merger approval to happen in the first place. Not only is Spectrum one of the nation's largest providers, but the company is also the largest service provider in all of NY.

The commission said the United States broadband provider failed to live up to its agreement as part of the merger to build internet access to an additional 145,000 households and businesses in rural areas of NY under-served by internet providers. "After more than a year of administrative enforcement efforts to bring Charter into compliance with the Commission's merger order, the time has come for stronger actions to protect New Yorkers and the public interest", said Commission Chair John B. Rhodes.

In addition to revoking their approval of the 2016 merger, NY has issued $3 million in fines and referred the case to the State Supreme Court. In a statement, the company said they have "extended the reach of [their] advanced broadband network to more than 86,000 NY homes and businesses".

The commission ordered Charter - which trails only Comcast in size - to file a plan within 60 days to find a replacement provider, without any disruptions to service.

Charter will undoubtedly do everything in its power to block this move, so don't expect Spectrum to suddenly vanish from NY in two months, but perhaps this will at least lead to some positive changes.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration moved to ban Charter Communications from NY on Friday, ordering the internet, television and phone behemoth to leave the state and hand over its business to another company.

Spectrum is owned by Charter Communications, which merged with Time Warner Cable.

In addition, the PSC directed commission counsel to bring an enforcement action in State Supreme Court to seek additional penalties for "Charter's past failures and ongoing non-compliance". According to the commission, Spectrum has blown past every network expansion target since the merger, while falsely claiming to customers that it is exceeding these commitments.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter said in a prepared statement that "In the weeks leading up to an election, rhetoric often becomes politically charged".

Charter's justification for this has been it doesn't want to allow competitors to take away potential customers, even though the Public Service Commission has allowed Charter to be the only company that provides service in designated area. Charter also must ensure that cable and internet customers' service is not interrupted during the transition.

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