Despite the opposition of one Republican commissioner, the FCC has reportedly agreed to approve Charter's pending purchases of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
Both Bloomberg and Reuters are reporting that FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O'Rielly have thrown their support behind the two deals, joining Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler. That means a majority of the five-member agency is behind the transactions, which would turn Charter Communications Inc. into the second biggest cable operator and broadband provider in the US behind Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), as well as the nation's third biggest pay-TV provider behind Comcast and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).
A fourth FCC commissioner, Republican Ajit Pai, has cast his vote against the mergers, according to the reports. Pai has repeatedly criticized the FCC for imposing conditions upon companies in return for granting them permission to acquire others.
That leaves just one more commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, to decide. But Clyburn, a Democratic appointee like Wheeler and Rosenworcel, would seem likely to follow the chairman's lead and support the deals. In either case, her vote won't matter much now.
While O'Rielly, a Republican, favors the deal overall, he dissented in part because of the conditions that the agency and Justice Department plan to place on Charter. That means that the final conditions could change before the full vote is completed and made public. The proposed conditions would bar Charter from imposing usage-based pricing and data caps on broadband service, charging interconnection fees or making agreements with video programmers that disadvantage online video competitors for the next seven years. (See Wheeler Recommends Charter Deals.)
Both the FCC and Charter have declined to comment on the reports.
With the support now of both the FCC and the Justice Department, Charter only needs approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. Last month a state administrative judge recommended that the public utilities commission approve the deal. The decision could come as early as May 12.
Shareholders of Charter and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have already approved the companies' deal. Bright House Networks , which is privately held, also favors its acquisition. Charter President & CEO Tom Rutledge has said the deals could close shortly after the California PUC approves them.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading