New York State will take a close look at Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, a deal that hangs on the approval of federal and state regulators, including those in New York, where TWC is based. Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that the state's Public Service Commission would be reviewing the purchase to see if it was in the interest of New York and those currently subscribing to TWC within the state. "The state is taking a hands-on review of this merger to ensure that New Yorkers benefit," Governor Cuomo says in a statement.
Review aims to ensure better service after the mergerThe commission's review is meant to ensure that Comcast and TWC will commit to delivering "strong service quality, affordability, and availability" throughout the state. TWC's service quality is already widely maligned in areas such as New York City, but with little competition, it hasn't really been pressed to address those complaints. Cuomo's particular interests in the merger, however, appear to surround the expansion of internet access, including how the deal would help deliver it to underserved areas and improve access in schools.
Beyond reviewing how the merger might impact broader pricing and competition, the Governor's Office also specifically notes the commission's "thorough and detailed investigation" will be looking at protections around pricing for low-income consumers. "To determine whether the proposed transaction is in the public interest," commission chair Audrey Zibelman says in a statement, "the commission will examine the proposal to ensure services the merged company would provide will be better than the service customers currently receive."
Critically, the deal would give Comcast a major hold in New York. At the moment, it only has around 23,000 subscribers in the state, while TWC has around 2.6 million that it's in line to acquire. Comcast will have the burden of proving to the state that the purchase is in the public's interest — something that could be difficult using its shaky logic — and the commission intends to conduct a detailed investigation too. It's also considering holding public forums throughout the state to hear the public's opinion on the deal.
Though the Governor's Office doesn't suggest whether the commission is already leaning in one way or another, it does sound as though it could be looking for certain service guarantees at a minimum to help it achieve state goals of spreading broadband. New York expects its review to be completed within four months, which should still allow Comcast to meet its estimate of closing the deal by the end of the year.