Charter-TWC merger opposition group presses FCC for more conditions

With FCC Commissioners set to vote on Charter Communications' (NASDAQ: CHTR) takeover of Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks, opposition group Stop Mega Cable has made an 11th-hour plea with the agency to impose more conditions on the deals. 

On Monday, reps from the group, led by legal eagles from member company Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), met with Marc Paul, legal advisor for Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The opposition group said conditions to the deals outlined in an approval order published by FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler last week don't go far enough.

"Among other things, the conditions proposed in the draft order do not fully prevent Charter from using its dominant position in the marketplace to thwart competition from OTT streaming services and stifle competitors in underserved, rural communities," the group said in an ex parte filing outlining the FCC meeting. 

"Coalition members explained that additional conditions should be imposed to remedy the harms that remain insufficiently addressed by the draft order," the ex parte added. "Among other things, Charter should be required to offer a standalone broadband service that would enable consumers wishing to 'cut the cord' to have that option." 

Stop Mega Cable asked the Commission to demand that Charter establish a standalone broadband product with a minimum download speed of 60 Mbps. 

"In addition, members of the coalition underscored the need to establish a meaningful condition to improve media diversity that goes beyond a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). MOUs in mergers have proven to be ineffective for the most part and the MOU proffered in this merger was even lighter than most (e.g., calling for the renewal of a single African-American oriented programming service)," the group added. 

The FCC and Justice Department are expected to approve the deal, demanding seven-year commitments from Charter on issues like interconnection fees.

The California Public Utilities Commission is also set to vote yes on the deal next week — an event which will likely present its last regulatory hurdle. 

For more:
- read this Stop Mega Cable FCC filing

Related articles:
Charter merger conditions not 'unduly onerous,' analyst says
Charter set to close on new company called 'Charter,' full transition will run through 2018
Charter's TWC and Bright House deals get official approval order from FCC's Wheeler

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