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Today, reports indicate that the Federal Communications Commission voted to change a merger requirement that Charter Communications bring broadband competition to a million new households. The agency originally applied this requirement to Charter during the 2016 merger approval process for Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“While it's not unusual for new FCC majorities to change existing policy, revisiting the terms of a merger approval is another matter. FCC merger proceedings are not typical Commission rulemakings, but are structured as complaints from potentially injured parties, with the Commission adjudicating the issues. Such adjudications should be presumed final.
“Consumers already spend about $50 a month more than they would in a competitive market for TV, set-top box and broadband services, and often lack the ability to switch providers if they are unhappy with their service. But despite the challenging economics of broadband, consumers need protection -- whether through clear government rules that ensure providers do not take advantage of their privileged position, through competition between providers, or some combination. Removing this merger requirement only highlights the continuing importance of solid consumer broadband protections grounded in Title II of the Communications Act.
“That Charter’s merger requirements are still being debated shows that formulating competition policy through merger conditions, while often unavoidable given the harms presented, is not a complete or ideal approach. Congress should address the problems with broadband competition, affordability, and the urban/rural divide with express programs directly targeting these issues.”