Army of progressive groups launch FCC Hail Mary to stop Charter-TWC

A group of consumer watchdogs and progressive political action groups have banded together to implore the FCC to stop Charter Communications' (NASDAQ: CHTR) purchase of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks. 

"We are dismayed by rumors and reports that the FCC is considering an order to approve this disastrous deal," said the group, which includes Daily Kos, Free Press, MoveOn.org, Open Media and Stop the Cap!.

"The case is clear, and the popular outcry is growing. The merger serves no one but the companies backing it and should be blocked," the letter added.

The missive comes after a Wall Street Journal report last week that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had circulated an order mandating the conditional approval of Charter's deals.

Those conditions included low-cost broadband services for the poor — an element dismissed by the progressive groups in their joint letter.

"Despite Charter's promises to improve diverse programming and offer low-cost broadband to some families, we know that such merger conditions have historically been difficult to implement and impossible to enforce," the letter said. "Even if they were enforceable, the limited commitments would fail to remedy the serious systemic harms this merger would cause to broadband affordability."

The group said Charter's big deal, cumulatively valued at around $66 billion, would put New Charter and Comcast in control of a majority of the U.S. broadband market.

"The transaction would result in the new Charter equaling Comcast's current size, and would create a national broadband duopoly," the group said. "The two companies would control nearly two-thirds of the nation's high-speed broadband subscribers, and would offer service to almost 80 percent of the country. People in roughly 60 percent of Charter's vasty expanded territory would have no other realistic option but Charter for bundled high-speed Internet and video services."

For its part, Charter is staying on message, as detailed in an ex parte filing from a meeting last week with Wheeler and his team.

The MSO is maintaining the same concessions it offered since day one of its original proposals. 

According to the filing, "Charter discussed significant expansion of its residential network to increase broadband and video competition, $2.5 billion investment in building out its network to increase competition in the enterprise market, and the deployment of over 300,000 out-of-home Wi-Fi access points to increase wireless competition."

For more:
- read this FCC letter
- read Charter's letter to the FCC

Related articles:
New Charter sub growth and synergy projections 'too low,' analyst says
Wheeler set to circulate approval order for Charter's TWC and Bright House bids
Sen. Jeff Merkley voices Charter-TWC industry consolidation concerns

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