FCC Review of Charter-TWC Merger Focusing on Broadband Impact

  • U.S. regulators in $55.1 billion deal focus on Internet
  • Companies getting queries include AT&T, Netflix and Cogent

U.S. regulators weighing Charter Communications Inc.’s $55.1 billion bid for Time Warner Cable Inc. are focusing on how the merger would affect Internet service.

Requests for information were sent by the Federal Communications Commission to companies including top telephone providers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., largest cable provider Comcast Corp., online video leader Netflix Inc. and Internet-traffic carrier Cogent Communications Holdings Inc.

This is the second time the FCC has asked questions related to the merger’s impact on broadband service. The agency last month asked Charter for documents about its customer gains or losses to Web video and whether that has slowed or blocked access to rival services. The FCC is in early stages of its review, having reached the 32nd day toward its informal 180-day deadline for deciding the merger.

Questions from the agency, in the requests sent Oct. 9, included whether AT&T and Verizon plan to offer faster Internet service and how those companies and Comcast use data caps. The letters also asked Cogent and Netflix to offer comment on Charter’s pledge not to charge for accepting traffic onto its network.

Charter in June said it wouldn’t block or degrade Web traffic, or favor its own online content ahead of others’ or create Internet fast lanes for a fee -- adhering to the concept known as net neutrality. The company also said it wouldn’t impose caps on customers’ Internet usage or charge higher monthly rates if they consume more bandwidth.

With the deal announced in May, Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter would almost quadruple its cable subscribers, gaining customers in cities including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. The combined business would have about 17 million basic cable customers, second to Comcast’s 22 million.

Tamara Smith, a Charter spokeswoman, declined to comment.

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