The FCC today said it will reverse a requirement of last year’s Charter Communications-Time Warner Cable merger that would have seen Charter build out 1 million broadband deployments into locations already serviced by another provider.
The “overbuild” requirement was instituted by Obama administration FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to encourage more competition in the high-speed Internet game, and was part of an agreement to build out access to 2 million new customers overall. But new chief Ajit Pai said today the overlap would have substantially reduced buildout to unserved areas.
“This is like telling two people you will buy them lunch, ordering two entrées, and then sending both to just one of your companions,” Pai said in a statement today (read it in full below). “This condition was not and is not in the public interest, and it runs directly against the goal of promoting greater Internet access for all Americans.”
Charter is still obligated to build out to 2 million new locations, Pai said. “The difference now is that the beneficiaries will be consumers currently on the
wrong side of the digital divide.”
The news comes after Charter Communications chief Tom Rutledge was a guest of President Donald Trump’s in the Oval Office where Trump announced Charter was committing to invest $25 billion in the U.S. and hiring 20,000 new American workers during the next four years.
Charter officially acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in May 2016 for a combined $88.4 billion, making it the nation’s No. 2 cable company after Comcast.
Here’s Pai’s statement today:
My top priority is making sure that any American who wants high-speed Internet access is able to get it. Today, we take another step toward achieving that goal.
Last year, Charter Communications agreed to build broadband out to two million new customers as part of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Unfortunately, the FCC appended an ‘overbuild’ condition to the order, requiring that half of those new locations be already served by another provider.
Since these one million overbuilt deployments would be credited against the total, it would substantially reduce buildout to unserved areas. This is like telling two people you will buy them lunch, ordering two entrées, and then sending both to just one of your companions.
This condition was not and is not in the public interest, and it runs directly against the goal of promoting greater Internet access for all Americans.
Following our decision today, Charter Communications is still obligated to build out to two million new locations. The difference now is that the beneficiaries will be consumers currently on the wrong side of the digital divide. That’s a major difference, and one that will go a long way toward helping deliver online opportunity to all Americans.