FCC Should Prevent Charter From Penalizing Cord-Cutters, Dish Says

Charter is "ready and willing" to penalize cord-cutters, should its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks go through, merger opponent Dish warns in a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

Dish is asking the FCC to require New Charter (the post-merger name of the company) to offer standalone broadband service at speeds of at least 60 mbps download, as a condition of the deal. Dish also says the FCC should require New Charter to price the service at a "reasonable market-based and non-discriminatory" rate.

"This condition will ensure that New Charter customers who wish to subscribe to an [online video distributor's] service without a cable TV bundle can easily do so by purchasing a standalone broadband service from New Charter," Dish writes.

Dish says that confidential documents support its claims that Charter is poised to penalize subscribers who don't purchase a cable video subscription from the company.

In addition to the confidential material, Dish also points to Charter's current pricing system, as outlined on its Web site. That site advertises standalone broadband service for $39.99 a month, for a 12-month period. The site also offers broadband service for $29.99 a month (also for 12 months), but only if it's purchased as part of a bundle that includes either TV or voice services.



"Charter does not provide the basis for the allocation, and it alone has full and granular knowledge of its costs," Dish writes.

This is hardly the first time Dish has argued that Charter's merger would enable the company to harm online video rivals -- including Dish's Sling TV over-the-top video service.

Last October, Dish said in a filing that its Sling TV is viewed by Charter "as a serious competitive threat."

For its part, Charter has promised to follow some of the net neutrality rules for at least three years as a merger condition, even if the regulations are vacated by a court. Specifically, Charter said it won't block or throttle content, and won't charge content companies higher fees for faster delivery of their material.

Charter also promised that it for at least three years, it won't cap broadband data, or charge customers based on their data consumption.

But, as Dish points out, data caps aren't the only way broadband providers can discourage cord-cutting. They can also price their services at rates that give consumers incentives to subscribe to pay-TV services instead of over-the-top offerings.

For its part, Charter says in a statement that it already "offers customers a superior broadband service at competitive prices, including a standalone broadband product, with 60 mbps minimum speed, no data-caps, no usage based billing and no modem fees.”

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