FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will circulate a draft order as soon as this week conditionally approving Charter's (NASDAQ: CHTR) bid to buy Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The draft order would be sent to the FCC's four other commissioners, who would likely render modifications. The paper reports that an approval of the deals will likely come with restrictions on clauses Charter can put into its programming contracts that curtail distribution of online video.
The FCC believes this language is somewhat ubiquitous within pay-TV contracts and is limiting the growth of online distribution.
Wheeler's order also stipulates that Charter do other things to spur the development of the online video market, including the expansion of high-speed Internet availability — something the MSO has itself pledged to do from the beginning of its regulatory review process.
"Charter learned from what Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) failed to pull off," said Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. "They made broader concessions, and more meaningful concessions. And I think that, in conjunction with the fact that it's not as competitively harmful as the original Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, gave them an enormous leg up with the enforcement agencies."
Charter reps declined comment to FierceCable.
In its quest to secure the $55 billion TWC deal and the $10.4 billion Bright House pact, Charter must next secure approval from the Justice Department, which is reviewing the deals' antitrust implications.
Also, the California Public Utilities Commission will convene on the TWC agreement in May, representing Charter's last regulatory obstacle.
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