The Nation's Second Biggest Cable Company Probably Won't Get Kicked Out Of New York State After All

from the ill-communication dept

Back in July, New York State took the historically-unprecedented step of voting to kick Charter Communications (aka Spectrum) out of New York State. Regulators say the company misled them about why the company repeatedly failed to adhere to merger conditions affixed to the company's $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, going so far as to falsify (according to the NY PUC) the number of homes the company expanded service to. The state has also sued the company for failing to deliver advertised broadband speeds, for its shoddy service, and for its terrible customer support.

But the threat to kick Charter out of the state appears largely to have been a negotiation tactic, as the two sides are now purportedly making progress and engaging in "productive dialogue" as they attempt to hash out their differences. That's at least according to a Charter filing with the state PUC requesting a deadline extension obtained by Ars Technica:

"Good cause exists to further extend this deadline. Charter and the Department have been involved over the past few weeks in productive dialogue regarding the Revocation Order as well as the July Compliance Order and the related special proceeding initiated by the Commission in the [state] Supreme Court pursuant to the July Compliance Order. As part of that dialogue, Charter has been assembling additional information regarding broadband deployment efforts in New York for the Department's and the Commission's review. A further extension would allow additional time for discussions between Charter and the Department before the initiation by Charter of additional Commission or court proceedings."

The state PUC seems to agree, noting in its own order granting a deadline extension (pdf) that Charter has made a few good faith efforts of late, including ceasing running ads misleadingly stating the company expanded broadband to areas it may not have actually wired. While most telecom experts I've spoken to believe this is likely to result in some kind of settlement, this is still a fight that's going to be important to watch moving forward.

For one, Charter has attempted to use the FCC's "pre-emption" language embedded in its net neutrality repeal to try and claim that states have no authority to police ISPs in the wake of obvious federal apathy on consumer issues by the Trump administration and Ajit Pai FCC.

ISPs have lobbied hard (and quite successfully) to not only gut federal (FTC and FCC) oversight of their businesses, but have also been working hard to cripple state oversight. That's a troubling trend for an industry that already faces limited accountability due to the lack of competition in most of their markets, especially given that Charter and Comcast now enjoy a pretty stark monopoly over faster broadband speeds. That monopoly manifests itself in all manner of obvious ways, including soaring prices, unnecessary usage caps, net neutrality violations, and historically-terrible customer service.

So far those efforts haven't gone well for ISPs, with a court shooting down Charter's claim that the FCC's net neutrality repeal means states can't step in to fill the void. But with more than half the states in the nation now pursuing their own net neutrality rules, and other states trying to pass privacy rules in the wake of dismantling of FCC protections last year in Congress, this is a fight that's going to be playing out repeatedly in the months and years to come as states try to fill the vacuum left by a federal government that (unless you're in deep denial) pretty clearly doesn't care much about telecom consumer protection.

And while some states (New York, California, Washington) clearly still think consumer protection is important given the perils of monopoly power, there's countless states that are going to mirror the federal belief that telecom Utopia is accomplished, magically, by letting giant monopolies like Comcast, Charter and AT&T run amok. That's going to be especially problematic for users in states like Tennessee and West Virginia, where letting these historically-unpopular companies rip off taxpayers and over-charge captive customers is seen as a god-given right.

Filed Under: broadband, competition, merger conditions, new york, puc
Companies: charter, spectrum

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 7:32am


    "Who can move in to "compete"?"

    I'm also in the effected area. I'd probably still rather have Spectrum than have Comcast move in...

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