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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve the Charter/Time Warner Cable merger with some conditions designed to protect the public interest. While Public Knowledge proposed broader restrictions on the merging companies, we nonetheless support the Justice Department and FCC conditions and look forward to working with the agencies to promote competition and video choice.
As part of the merger review process, Charter has agreed to a number of commitments that, if properly enforced, counter some of the worst harms associated with industry consolidation, and advance the public interest. In particular, Charter has agreed to not impose broadband usage caps on its customers, to not charge interconnection fees to online video providers, to offer a low-cost standalone broadband product, and to abide by a Department of Justice framework designed to protect programmers from the outsized leverage it will now have in carriage deals, including restrictions on its ability to keep programming from being available on online platforms.
The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:
“These efforts to protect consumers and emerging competition should be viewed in the context of an FCC and an Administration that is working to promote the public interest in broadband and video competition, programming diversity, and consumer choice in a number of ways.
“For example, the FCC has adopted strong, enforceable Open Internet rules. It has begun a serious examination of the ways that dominant, incumbent video distributors can harm programmers and deny viewers access to diverse voices. Working together, the FCC and the Department of Justice raised serious objections to the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, which was of so great a scale that no conditions could have served to protect consumers. These objections led to that proposed merger being abandoned.
“The President and the Council of Economic Advisers have also endorsed the FCC's plan to finally bring competition to the set-top box marketplace, allowing consumers to use devices and apps of their choice to access pay TV programming--a move that will promote online video competition as well as saving consumers money. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has also expressed support for the FCC's proposal, and the FTC has explained how the FCC's proposal can protect consumer rights. It has been gratifying to see agencies from across government working toward the common goals of consumer protection and competition in the media and communications marketplace.
“Throughout the rest of this year, and beyond, Public Knowledge will continue to work with the FCC and the Administration on ways to protect consumers in the broadband and video marketplaces, to ensure that new technologies and new platforms create opportunities for competition and new ways for creators to reach an audience, and to combat the ways that a concentrated marketplace can harm the public interest.”