Dish Network, Consumer Advocates Oppose Charter's Merger With Time Warner

Charter recently promised that it will follow some of the net neutrality rules for at least three years as a condition of merging with Time Warner and Bright House Networks, even if the rules are vacated by a court.

But that's not enough to mitigate the threats posed by the merger, according to a coalition of consumer advocacy groups.

The organizations want Charter to promise to follow net neutrality principles for at least seven to 10 years. What's more, they want the Federal Communications Commission to appoint an independent monitor to make sure the company keeps its word.

"Behavioral commitments that require companies to act against their own economic self-interest can fall short," Public Knowledge, Common Cause, Consumers Union and Open Mic say in papers filed this week with the FCC. "A post-merger Charter could have an increased incentive to protect its video business from online competition, extract more revenue from consumers, and squeeze suppliers."



The groups are weighing in on Charter's application to buy Time Warner and Bright House for a $67 billion merger.

If the deal closes, New Charter (the post-merger name of the company) would serve almost 30% of U.S. homes with broadband connections of at least 25 Mbps, according to Dish Network, which also opposes the deal.

Charter promised earlier this year to refrain from blocking or throttling content, and from charging content companies higher fees for faster delivery of their material, for at least three years after the merger closes. The company also vowed to refrain from imposing data caps, or charging customers based on the amount of data they consume, for at least three years. In addition, Charter said it won't charge content companies like Netflix extra fees to interconnect directly with Charter's servers.

But the consumer groups warn the FCC that Charter could still harm online video competitors, even if it follows those promises. "Ultimately, the Commission cannot grant this merger unless it can be assured that a post-merger Charter cannot detrimentally affect the programming market, or use its clout as a video distributor to impose contractual prohibitions that would inhibit online video’s access to programming in ways that are less visible than the blunt instrument of data caps, Open Internet violations, and congested interconnection points," they argue.

Last week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told regulators that he was concerned that Charter's net neutrality promises would expire after 3 years.

Dish Network contends in its own filing that the merger "would be no better for the public interest" than Comcast's failed bid to acquire Time Warner Cable.

"The merger would permit and motivate the combined company to hurt or destroy online video rivals, including the Sling TV OTT video service, through its control over the broadband pipe," Dish says.

Not everyone that raised concerns about Comcast's scuttled merger with Time Warner is also opposing Charter's merger bid. Netflix said in July that it supports Charter's application, given its promise to avoid charging online video distributors (and other companies) extra fees to interconnect directly with its servers.

Next story loading loading..