U.S. approves Charter’s Time Warner Cable buy with conditions
By Diane Bartz, Malathi Nayak and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday gave antitrust approval to Charter Communications Inc's (CHTR.O: Quote) proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc TWC.N and Bright House networks, which would create the second-largest U.S. broadband provider and third-largest video provider.
The Justice Department's approval carried conditions designed to protect competition, coming at a time when the pay television industry faces stagnation due to new competition from over-the-web rivals like Netflix (NFLX.O: Quote) and Hulu.
The Federal Communications Commission must also approve the deal, and the agency's chairman on Monday said he, too, was prepared to put conditions on the merger aimed at promoting broadband competition.
The Justice Department said that as part of its approval, Charter agreed to refrain from telling its content providers that they cannot also sell shows online.
"Continued growth of OVDs (online video) promises to deliver more competitive choices and a greater ability for consumers to customize their consumption of video content to their individual viewing preferences and budgets," the Justice Department said in a court filing. "The emergence of OVDs threatens to upend the competitive landscape."
At the FCC, Chairman Tom Wheeler said he circulated an order seeking approval of the merger with conditions that "will directly benefit consumers by bringing and protecting competition to the video marketplace and increasing broadband deployment."
Wheeler said if approved the conditions would require Charter to extend high speed internet access to another two million customers within five years – with one million served by a broadband competitor.
Additionally, Charter would not be permitted to charge usage-based prices or impose data caps and would be prohibited from charging interconnection fees, including to online video providers, which deliver large volumes of internet traffic to broadband customers. He said the agreement would "demonstrate the viability of one broadband provider overbuilding another." Continued...