Settlement talks between Charter Communications and state regulators that would allow the company to keep its Spectrum cable television and internet business in New York are making "considerable progress," but still need more time to try to reach an agreement.
Charter and the state Public Service Commission's staff are 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 PSC filings. But the settlement talks still are ongoing, and the PSC on Wednesday gave the two sides an additional month to keep trying to reach an agreement.
Charter and the PSC staff have "exchanged term sheets and reached agreement on many key issues," said Maureen O. Helmer, an attorney representing Charter and a former PSC chairwoman during the Pataki administration, in a letter requesting the extension.
"Further data analysis is still underway on certain passings under discussion, and additional time will allow the parties an opportunity to fully review the information exchanged, as well as to convert the term sheet into a fuller written agreement,” she said.
PSC officials indicated a month ago that they expected the preliminary terms of the agreement to be settled within two weeks and a formal written agreement should be ready within four weeks. The latest extension – to April 5 – is an indication that those negotiations are taking longer than expected.
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. Last summer, the PSC ordered Charter to come up with a plan to sell off its New York operations within 60 days because of its failure to meet the terms of the deal it struck with state regulators to gain approval for the merger.
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.
PSC staff last month indicated that 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.