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Charter nears deal with state to keep its Spectrum cable business in New York

The state may not kick the owners of Spectrum cable out of New York after all.

The company that owns Spectrum cable is getting close to a deal with state regulators that would allow it to continue to provide cable television, phone and internet service across New York, according to a state Public Service Commission member.

The terms of a potential deal are still being negotiated, but the broad conditions that are under discussion were outlined in a PSC order that gave the two sides another month – until April 3 – to strike a deal.

If a deal is reached, it would end a highly contentious spat between one of the nation's largest cable companies, Charter Communications, and New York regulators over whether Charter had lived up to its earlier agreement with the PSC to expand its service in rural areas of the state. That earlier agreement was part of a deal that Charter struck with state regulators to gain approval of its purchase more than two years ago of Time Warner Cable.

The PSC has repeatedly said that Charter failed to meet its promises to greatly expand its services across the state, including an expansion of its network to about 145,000 unserved or underserved homes by May 2020.

Charter, however, has said it is on pace to meet the targets included in the merger agreement and blamed politics for the escalating dispute with the state. The company was required to add more than 58,000 homes to its network by May 2018. The company said it expanded its network to more than 86,000 new homes – a figure the PSC says is inflated.

New York tells Spectrum Cable to get out of the state

Since the PSC first issued an order in July giving Charter six months to come up with a plan to sell off its New York operations, the two sides have been holding talks in search of a compromise settlement that would meet the PSC's demands for expanded service and allow Charter to continue to operate in the state.

After several extensions, the two sides now are nearing an agreement, PSC Chairman John B. Rhodes said in an order granting the latest one-month extension.

The preliminary terms of the agreement are expected to be settled within two weeks and a formal written agreement should be ready within four weeks, the PSC document said.

Charter gets another extension for filing its exit plan from New York

The PSC has been sparring with Charter over the state's contention that it failed to expand its Spectrum cable network as promised after the Time Warner acquisition more than two years ago.

The PSC has repeatedly said that Charter failed to meet its promises to greatly expand its services across the state, including an expansion of its network to about 145,000 unserved or underserved homes by May 2020.

Charter, however, has said it is on pace to meet the targets included in the merger agreement and blamed politics for the escalating dispute with the state.

The company was required to add more than 58,000 homes to its network by May 2018. The company said it expanded its network to more than 86,000 new homes – a figure the PSC says is inflated and includes subscribers in New York City, not just the rural areas of the state targeted in the merger approval agreement.

A settlement is expected to include an agreement between regulators and the cable company spelling out which homes will count toward its 145,000-home service expansion requirement, the PSC said in its order granting the extension.

Any deal also is expected to include either a penalty to Charter/Spectrum or a mandate that it devote additional money to pay for expanding its high-speed internet services to even more homes than were required by the merger approval agreement.

The settlement also is expected to include an "enforceable schedule" for the company to complete the remaining work on the mandated buildout of its network in New York, the PSC said.

"The parties are currently considering proposed settlement frameworks, and the parties would benefit from having additional time to consider these proposals," said Maureen  O. Helmer, an attorney representing Charter and a former PSC chairwoman during the Pataki administration.

 

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