Charter is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release it from two conditions related to how over-the-top (OTT) video traffic flows on its networks. The company is on track to be released from these conditions in 2023, but it’s asking to be released two years early – on May 18, 2021.
The requests are part of a document filed by Charter earlier this month with the FCC related to conditions imposed on it as part of its 2016 merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. The conditions relate to data caps/usage-based pricing and interconnection rules.
Charter says many of its competitors — including Comcast, AT&T, Cox and Altice — have incorporated data caps or some form of data usage policy in their offerings to help them manage their networks. And Charter complains that it must wait until 2023 before it can use data caps.
Charter argues that the data caps rules were imposed so that Charter wouldn’t hurt OTT video players by limiting their traffic on its network. But, ironically, the OTT players are doing just fine; better than the cablecos in some ways.
Charter cites research which found that in 2019, the number of online video subscriptions in the United States increased to 237.2 million, up 82% since 2016. Meanwhile, U.S. cable companies closed 2019 with a combined 45.8 million video subscribers, down 13% since 2016.
Charter also argues that it’s invested billions in its network, which helps to support OTT video. “Since 2016, Charter has invested over $34 billion in infrastructure and technology, including DOCSIS 3.1, to retain its status as an industry leader in fixed wireline speeds, and has increased its maximum download speeds to nearly 1 Gbps across virtually its entire footprint with minimum download speeds of at least 100 Mbps nationwide,” according to Charter's petition.
In addition to wanting an early release from restrictions on data caps, Charter is requesting release from interconnection rules it agreed to as part of its 2016 merger. Those rules require Charter to offer to interconnect its IP network to any qualifying entity free of charge.
Charter cited some examples where its competitors negotiated interconnection agreements with OTT video companies:
- In 2014, Comcast reached an interconnection agreement with Netflix that allowed the streaming company to transmit content directly to Comcast customers instead of using intermediaries: and
- In 2014, Verizon reached an interconnection agreement with Netflix that allows Netflix to bypass any potential congestion at the interconnection points with ISPs and transit providers.
Charter said its interconnection conditions should sunset early because they impede the company from operating its network efficiently.
“In the years since the conditions were imposed, online video distributors are even more numerous, more popular, and more formidable today than they were in 2016,” states Charter. Seemingly insatiable consumer demand for content only bolsters their already strong interconnection negotiating positions.”