Charter's purchase of Time Warner Cable is close to receiving US regulatory approval. The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission both announced their support for the deal this afternoon, with their approval imposing a series of conditions on the combined entity. Together, Charter and TWC create the second-largest cable company in the US.
Conditions will apply for seven years
The conditions are broadly meant to prevent the combined company from creating "unfair barriers to video competition" — that is, driving consumers away from services like Netflix so that consumers might sign up for, say, TWC TV service. The combined Charter–TWC will be prevented from imposing data caps or usage-based pricing, from charging interconnection fees to heavy traffic providers, and from making TV deals that could harm online video providers (such as by demanding exclusivity). The conditions will apply for seven years. An independent monitor will be put in place to ensure they're being adhered to.
"The cumulative impact of these conditions will be to provide additional protection for new forms of video programming services offered over the internet," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says in a statement. "These strong measures will protect consumers, expand high-speed broadband availability, and increase competition."
A number of groups had also pushed for a required standalone broadband offering, a key step in disrupting the traditional cable-and-broadband bundle. Unfortunately for over-the-top services, that measure didn't make it into the final deal. Charter does offer standalone broadband service to its current subscribers, but advocates worry those offerings may fluctuate as competition with over-the-top service heats up.
The FCC's support of the deal still needs to be approved by its commissioners. Given Wheeler's backing of it, however, it seems likely to go through. Other commissioners may still press for changes.
Charter's purchase of TWC was announced nearly a year ago, with a price initially valuing TWC at $78.7 billion. Bloomberg points out that the deal still needs to receive approval in California before the acquisition can be completed.