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May 10 — The Federal Communications Commission May 10 issued its order approving the acquisition by Charter Communications Inc. of two other cable companies and laying out its conditions for the deals to proceed.
The agency voted 4-1 May 5 to approve Charter's takeovers of Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks LLC. The combination “as proposed would likely cause public interest harms but may also produce modest public interest benefits,” the commission said in a memorandum accompanying its order.
In the order, the agency laid out the conditions it has imposed in return for its approval of the deals. The conditions largely mirror the conditions that Charter, in its merger and acquisition proposal, voluntarily committed to abide by for three years, but extend that period by four years.
The conditions imposed by the FCC, all of which are in place for seven years from the date of the order, include:
Republican FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly both took issue with a number of the conditions included in the order, with Pai dissenting and O'Rielly approving in part, concurring in part, and dissenting in part.
“It is quite clear the Commission's majority does not believe that the merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House is in the public interest,” Pai wrote in his dissent. “This Order spends over 100 pages detailing the harms that would allegedly result from the transaction. And when the discussion turns to the merger's purported benefits, the words ‘modest' and ‘minimal' are used over and over again.” Pai said that the commission approved the merger despite those concerns because, “it has turned the transaction into a vehicle for advancing its ambitious agenda to micromanage the Internet economy.”
Pai called on Congress to step in and change how the FCC reviews such mergers.
“Given how badly broken the current merger review process has become at the FCC—how rife it is with fact-free, dilatory, politically motivated, non-transparent decision-making—I believe Congress should implement major reforms of the procedural and/or substantive rules governing the Commission's assessment of transactions,” Pai wrote. “The ideologically inspired extortion has to end.”
Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn took an opposing view. In her statement concurring with the commission's order, Clyburn said the requirement to pass 2 million new homes is insufficient.
“As the soon-to-be second largest provider of broadband Internet access, with service to approximately one-fifth of households, I believe that New Charter should be required to build out to more households with a specific focus on reaching those homes deemed ‘unserved,'” Clyburn wrote.
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