An official FCC notice confirms that the federal agency has now signed off on the Altice deal to acquire Cablevision for $17.7 billion.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filed its statement on May 3, declaring that: "We find that approval of the applications will serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity and hereby grant the applications subject to the condition requested by the Executive Branch Agencies set forth below."
The condition cited by the FCC requires that foreign-owned Altice abide by a National Security Agreement in the Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) transaction that was already applied to the company's acquisition of Suddenlink Communications late last year. The agreement ensures Altice's cooperation in national security, law enforcement and public safety issues.
While the FCC has now given its okay on the latest Altice deal, the company won't be able to close on the acquisition until the New York Public Service Commission also signs off on the takeover. There's been some resistance to the deal from both the New York State and New York City governments in part because of fears that cost-saving measures by Altice could result in job cuts. (See Analyst Sounds Warning on Altice/Cablevision Deal.)
While it's not clear if the city government could effectively block the acquisition, the NYC Franchise and Concession Review Committee will hold a hearing on May 9 to decide and then announce whether or not it approves of the deal.
The New York Public Service Commission, which, as a state regulatory body, could legally block the transaction, plans to render its decision on May 20.
The FCC did not impose any new conditions on Altice in its buyout of Cablevision beyond those stipulated by the Department of Justice. While opponents of the deal have expressed concern over whether Altice would invest reasonably in upgrading the Cablevision broadband network, the FCC says it is satisfied by the operator's promise to deployed Internet services with speeds up to 300 Mbit/s throughout the Cablevision footprint. The FCC also maintains that Altice should be better able to raise funds to support infrastructure upgrades than Cablevision would on its own.
If Altice does succeed in taking over Cablevision next month, it will gain 3.1 million video, voice and data subscribers to add to the 1.5 million customers it picked up from Suddenlink in December. The acquisitions combined would make Altice a substantial player in the US telecom market.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading