The Federal Communications Commission is close to approving Charter's nearly year-old purchase of Time Warner Cable, allowing the two to merge into the United States' second largest cable provider, according to The Wall Street Journal. The approval is reported to come with conditions, aimed at preventing the combined company from interfering with the emergence of online video companies as a challenge to traditional cable TV.
Conditions are aimed at helping online video grow
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will circulate a draft of his approval order as soon as this week, according to the report. From there, commissioners will have a chance to review the order and press for changes; the Journal reports that this may take a few weeks. The approval has been a long time coming. The FCC usually tries to issue decisions within 180 days — this decision may come in closer to 11 months.
Reports about the pending merger have suggested that the FCC's biggest concern is how it could hurt the growth of online video companies. To resolve that, the deal will reportedly prohibit Charter–TWC from restricting content companies from offering their shows and movies to streaming video competitors, something that apparently happens in some TV contracts. Additional restrictions may also be put in place to help online video grow. The Journal reports that the order may also include a requirement for the combined company to built out internet service to more homes.
In addition to the requirements the FCC will impose, Charter and TWC announced several commitments they were willing to make in the first place. Those include abiding by the commission's net neutrality rules for three years and agreeing not to charge interconnect fees for companies like Netflix. That last item even netted support for the merger from Netflix itself, which strongly opposed Comcast's (failed) attempt to buy TWC in 2014.
Getting the FCC's approval clears a big hurdle, but it's not the final step for the merger. As the Journal points out, California is yet to issue its approval. A decision is expected there in May.