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FCC Relaxes Charter Overbuild Order

Alan Breznick

Reversing yet another regulatory mandate imposed by the Commission under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC is moving to ease the broadband overbuild requirements on Charter Communications.

As first reported this morning by Reuters, the now Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to drop the requirement that Charter Communications Inc. extend broadband availability to 1 million US households already served by another ISP. Under Wheeler's leadership, the then Democratic-led Commission imposed that mandate last May as one of the conditions for approving Charter's twin purchases of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. (See Charter Wins FCC Merger Approval.)

The American Cable Association (ACA) , which represents smaller and independent cable operators, has been lobbying the FCC to ease the overbuild requirements on Charter. In a letter co-signed by executives of 38 of its members last month, for instance, the ACA urged the Commission to drop the overbuild regulation because of fears that Charter would enter new areas and lure broadband customers away from smaller cable operators across the country. Several ACA members also argued that the mere threat of the government-mandated Charter overbuilds had already discouraged them from extending their own broadband services to more communities.

Under the revised FCC order expected to be made public later today, Charter must still extend high-speed data service to 2 million new homes over the next four to five years. But now the nation's second largest MSO has the freedom to expand its reach totally in areas without any broadband service.

Charter has not yet commented on the FCC's revised order. In a move that may or may not be related, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge met with President Donald Trump at the White House last month to tout his company's investment and hiring plans.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
4/4/2017 | 6:07:18 AM
This really surprised me. FCC is changing strategy?
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/3/2017 | 2:00:50 PM
It doesn't sound like too many people directly involved in the business will have a problem with this reversal.
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