Charter's TWC and Bright House deals get final FCC approval

The FCC issued its official approval for the merger of Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks.

"The Commission yesterday approved -- with conditions -- the application filed by Charter Communications, Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., and Advance/Newhouse Partnership approval to transfer control of certain licenses and authorizations from Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to Charter Communications," the FCC said in an afternoon statement.

The commission voted 4-1 in favor of the deal, with commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel, Michael O'Rielly, Mignon Clyburn and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signing "yes" votes.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai voted against the deal, reportedly unhappy with the agency's methodology of securing conditions in return for granting permission for companies to conduct deals.

Pai's reported objection to the merger comes after Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge earlier this week called Pai to explain that the deals had multiple public interest benefits, including increased network buildout and an "industry leading" low-income broadband offer, and that approving the deals would have no negative impact on consumers, according to an FCC filing.

"An order detailing the commission's reasoning and the conditions will be issued in the coming days," the FCC added in its brief statement.

Opposition group Stop Mega Cable responded to the FCC's announcement with this statement: "With the completion of this merger, the U.S. now has a national cable duopoly controlling, among other things, over two-thirds of all high-speed broadband households. These two companies, 'New Charter' and Comcast, must not be allowed to abuse their power to thwart the growing and much needed competition posed by emerging over-the-top (OTT) streaming services. That has been the message of numerous industry stakeholders, members of Congress and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans, and we count on the enforcement agencies not to let us down."

The deal cleared the Justice Department last month. The only remaining hurdle is a vote on May 12 by the California Public Utilities Commission, which has already received a recommendation from an administrative law judge to approve the mergers. 

Charter executives last week told investors during the company's first-quarter earnings call that their integration plan is already in place and they're prepared to close on the deal with TWC "within a few days" of the California PUC vote.

Netflix lauded the approval with a statement released Friday: "Charter's commitment to an open Internet without interconnection fees or data caps will foster innovation and promote the efficient scaling of the Internet. In applying this policy as a condition across the "New Charter" footprint, the FCC has made sure the merger will support growing consumer demand for all streaming video services."

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