The state Public Service Commission has approved a $13 million settlement agreement with Charter Communications Inc. after the cable company failed to build out its cable network as required in last year's approval of Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc., according to PSC officials.
The $13 million settlement is the largest cable company financial settlement of its kind in state history and possibly the largest in the nation's, the officials said.
"In its approval of the merger, the commission required Charter to undertake several types of investments and other activities," Commission Chairman John B. Rhodes said. "While Charter is delivering on many of them, it failed to expand the reach of its network to unserved and underserved customers at the pace it committed. We are taking these additional steps to ensure full and complete compliance."
On Jan. 8, 2016, the PSC approved Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable, a company that provides television, internet and voice services, using strengthened review standards signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. To obtain approval, Charter agreed to a number of conditions required by the PSC, including delivering broadband speed upgrades to 100 megabytes per second statewide by the end of 2018 and 300 MBPS by the end of 2019, and building out its network to pass an additional 145,000 unserved or underserved homes and businesses within four years of the closing of the transaction in four equal phases of 36,250 premises per year.
While Charter has reported that it completed the first speed upgrade ahead of schedule, as of May 18, it had only extended its network to pass 15,164 of the 36,250 premises it was required to pass in the first year, officials said. Under the revised agreement, Charter commits to completing its build-out requirement of 145,000 new passings in 21,646 increments over six periods through May 18, 2020.
To ensure the company keeps its promise, Charter will forfeit its right to earn back up to $1 million each time it misses a six-month build-out target, although the actual amount forfeited will vary, depending upon the percentage of the target missed and whether or not Charter can demonstrate it has timely performed specific tasks.
As part of the settlement agreement, Charter developed a website, www.bldlkup.com, to inform homeowners and businesses whether their address is included in Charter's broadband expansion plan.
Charter is the largest cable provider in the state, providing digital cable television, broadband internet, and telephone service to more than 2 million subscribers, including those in the Buffalo metropolitan area.
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