May 28th, 2015
While Comcast may have just failed to pick up TWC, Charter clearly seems to think they have a better chance, no doubt because of their higher standing with customers, bureaucrats and legislatures alike. Comcast failed purportedly for BBB/Customer Service reasons as opposed to technical, but if Charter does run into net neutrality concerns, it’s working to cool those doubts already.
Tom Rutledge, who is Charter’s current chief executive, pledged during a conference call that New Charter would keep away from data caps and some of Comcast’s unpopular business tactics.
“Through Charter, weâ€™ll offer consumers a broadband product that makes watching online video, gaming, and engaging in other data-hungry applications a great experience, including at peak times,” Rutledge said during a conference call yesterday.
He also said that Charter will steer clear of paid prioritization â€” even if the FCC’s new net neutrality rules are ultimately defeated in court by broadband providers. Charter will “not block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization of internet traffic,” Rutledge said during an interview yesterday. Two other things make Charter’s acquisition more likely to survive regulatory scrutiny. First, the combined company wouldn’t possess nearly the same level of control over US broadband as the doomed Comcast and Time Warner Cable pairing. If the merger is successful, Charter will hold less than 30 percent of the high-speed broadband market compared to the 57 percent stake that Comcast / TWC would’ve claimed. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that deal “posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation” and risked harming video services like Netflix.
And second, unlike Comcast, Charter isn’t a content company. It doesn’t own TV networks or cable channels, nor does it have a direct business interest in any particular video service. Comcast’s ownership of NBCUniversal proved to be yet another hurdle for regulators who feared the company would eventually favor its own content over other programming. With Charter, there are no such concerns. If approved, the merger would nearly quadruple Charter’s customer base to cover 24 million accounts across 41 states. (Comcast has 27 million.) The combined company will be known as New Charter, with services sold under the Spectrum brand.
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