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Wheeler Recommends Charter Deals

On day 211 of the informal 180-day review shot clock, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement today recommending approval of Charter's proposed acquisition of both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. The statement was issued in conjunction with an announcement by the US Department of Justice, which has approved the Charter transactions, subject to several conditions.

Charter Communications Inc. announced plans last year to take over Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) for $56 billion and Bright House Networks for another $10 billion. Now that Wheeler has announced his recommendation, the rest of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners must still vote on the proposal, but the merger is expected to gain approval.

The California Public Utilities Commission also still needs to approve the deal, but, like Chairman Wheeler, a state judge recommended that Charter's acquisitions be approved with conditions earlier this month. Final endorsement from the California PUC is expected to be handed down on May 12.

There are three broad conditions being attached to regulatory approval. For seven years, New Charter will not be allowed to impose usage-based pricing or data caps on broadband service, charge interconnection fees or make agreements with video programmers that disadvantage online video competitors.

"Importantly," said Wheeler, "we will require an independent monitor to help ensure compliance with these and other proposed conditions. These strong measures will protect consumers, expand high-speed broadband availability and increase competition."

This story is developing.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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