BUSINESS

To sway regulators, Charter pledges to play nice on Internet

Charter is trying to convince the government that consumers will benefit if it is allowed to create a cable giant through its proposed $67.1 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House.

The company says it will roll out faster Internet with no data caps for Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers for less money than a comparable service could. It is also pledging to continue its policy of not blocking or slowing traffic, or establishing paid fast lanes for some content.

The government's new "net neutrality" rules prohibit those practices, though Internet providers have sued to throw out the rules.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that the Stamford, Conn. company needs to show how a more powerful Charter would benefit consumers.

Comcast scrapped its bid for Time Warner Cable this spring after pushback from regulators who were concerned that the company would serve more than half of the country's high-speed Internet customers, giving it the power to undermine online video rivals.

Charter has pointed out that its share of that market is smaller than that, at 30%. It would have 19.4 million Internet customers, fewer than Comcast has now, and 17.3 million cable customers, less than both Comcast and the combination of AT&T and DirecTV, if regulators approve that pending deal.

In another bid to assuage the FCC, Charter Communications Inc. also says it will submit disputes over commercial Internet traffic deals, called "interconnection," to the agency. The net neutrality rules give the FCC the power to hear disputes over these arrangements, which the industry doesn't like. Fights between companies and Internet providers over these deals can disrupt service for Internet users, like slowing streaming speeds for Netflix.

"It seems like they're taking a more customer-friendly tone here" than Comcast did, said Matt Wood, policy director at public-interest group Free Press. "Some of the things they're saying look good, but our question remains, are these merger-specific benefits or not?"

He questioned why Time Warner Cable couldn't improve their customer service and Internet speeds without growing larger, or why Charter couldn't submit interconnection disputes to the FCC without buying Time Warner Cable and Bright House.

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