Charter fined $640K for blocking third-party modems

Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) will pay $640,000 and has agreed to a three-year compliance plan for preventing customers from using their modems for a period of several years. 

The cable company entered into a consent decree with the FCC, which was posted by Ars Technica.

Charter said in June 2012 that it would no longer support third-party modems. It wasn't until July 2015 — when the MSO was trying to gain approval for its purchases of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks — that the FCC's Media Bureau launched an investigation. 

"The Bureau's investigation found that for a period of approximately two years beginning in 2012, Charter informed subscribers that they would no longer be permitted to attach new customer-owned modems," the FCC said. "Charter later provided a list of authorized customer-owned modems, but new modems were only added to the list after passing a number of tests, many of which did not relate to harm to the network or theft of service."

Notably, Charter doesn't charge a leasing fee to customers for its own modems. 

"We are pleased to be able to continue to give our customers the choice to use a modem provided by Charter for no additional charge or to purchase an approved third party modem," company rep Justin Venech told FierceCable in an email today. 

Charter will now shorten is testing period for third-party modems to three weeks. The fine will go to the U.S. Treasury Dept. Charter will also have to issue compliance reports every six months, detailing its efforts to allow its customers to use their own modems.

The company opened up its policy in 2014, and now has an approved list of 25 different third-party modem models. 

Petitioning the FCC to block Charter's merger proposals last October, modem maker Zoom said most of these devices "are unavailable at major brick and mortar retailers, and others are not easily available. Only three have wireless functionality, and none of them employ the 802.11ac standard."

For more:
- read this consent decree
- read this Ars Technica story

Related articles:
Charter hits closing time with California PUC approval
FCC approval order: New Charter is 'harmful' without conditions
Charter's TWC and Bright House deals get final FCC approval