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Charter vows to uphold net neutrality as it seeks Time Warner Cable deal

Charter vows to uphold net neutrality as it seeks Time Warner Cable deal

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Having just witnessed the sudden collapse of Comcast's Time Warner Cable takeover, Charter is already looking to assuage concerns of investors and the public about its own newly announced merger attempt. Tom Rutledge, who is Charter's current chief executive, pledged during a conference call that New Charter would keep away from data caps and some of Comcast's unpopular business tactics. "Through Charter, we’ll offer consumers a broadband product that makes watching online video, gaming, and engaging in other data-hungry applications a great experience, including at peak times," Rutledge said during a conference call yesterday.

No data caps and no paid prioritization

He also said that Charter will steer clear of paid prioritization — even if the FCC's new net neutrality rules are ultimately defeated in court by broadband providers. Charter will "not block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization of internet traffic," Rutledge said during an interview yesterday. Two other things make Charter's acquisition more likely to survive regulatory scrutiny. First, the combined company wouldn't possess nearly the same level of control over US broadband as the doomed Comcast and Time Warner Cable pairing. If the merger is successful, Charter will hold less than 30 percent of the high-speed broadband market compared to the 57 percent stake that Comcast / TWC would've claimed. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that deal "posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation" and risked harming video services like Netflix.

And second, unlike Comcast, Charter isn't a content company. It doesn't own TV networks or cable channels, nor does it have a direct business interest in any particular video service. Comcast's ownership of NBCUniversal proved to be yet another hurdle for regulators who feared the company would eventually favor its own content over other programming. With Charter, there are no such concerns. If approved, the merger would nearly quadruple Charter's customer base to cover 24 million accounts across 41 states. (Comcast has 27 million customers.) The combined company will be known as New Charter, with services sold under the Spectrum brand.