CPUC Review of Comcast-TWC Merger Gives Cities & Schools Opportunity to Improve Broadband Services

Discovery stage ends Oct. 1; briefs due Oct. 20

The California Public Utilities Commission has decided to focus on the cost and availability of broadband services in its review of the proposed merger between the two largest cable and broadband providers in the state: Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Local governments and schools may want to participate to express their concerns on issues, such as broadband access and the “digital divide,” as well as the proposed merger’s effect on safety, reliability and build out to unserved and underserved areas of California.

The FCC is reviewing the merger from a national perspective, but this CPUC proceeding provides a unique opportunity for local governments and schools to participate in a review of the merger focused specifically on impacts in California. Under the state video franchising regime adopted in the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006, the companies do not require approval by local authorities or the CPUC to transfer their state video franchises. However, CPUC approval is required to transfer the companies’ state-issued telecommunications authorizations, and it is in this context that the CPUC has issued its scoping ruling focusing on broadband.

The CPUC will concentrate on whether the merger will be beneficial on an overall basis to state and local economies, and to the communities in the areas served by the merged company. Among the topics it will examine, the CPUC will look at the effects of the merger on:

  • Safety and reliability of voice and broadband services, including battery backups provided to consumers;
  • Broadband deployment, especially to elementary and secondary schools and classrooms and unserved and underserved areas of the State;
  • Consumer protection, including impacts or benefits for low-income consumers, accessibility, affordability, outreach and adoption.

The CPUC may require mitigation measures to prevent any adverse consequences of the merger.

As part of the proceeding, the CPUC directed its staff to issue discovery requests to the companies on topic areas such as: safety and reliability, complaints and complaint procedures, service terms and conditions, customer privacy, public safety, subscriber counts and network footprints, and services offered including voice, backhaul, wholesale and business services.

If you would like to participate in this proceeding, please let us know as soon as possible. Discovery must be completed by Oct. 1, and opening briefs are due Oct. 20.

The CPUC plans to issue a proposed decision in December, and adopt a final decision in January.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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