Cable companies propose merger

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A proposed merger between the parent company of cable provider Oceanic Time Warner and Charter Communications Inc. is before the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

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A proposed merger between the parent company of cable provider Oceanic Time Warner and Charter Communications Inc. is before the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The merger application was announced in mid-July and is part of a three-way transaction between Charter, Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks. The latter does not have any operations in Hawaii.

According to the merger application, the new company will be able to “leverage the best aspects of each of the three participants.”

Oceanic, a subsidiary of Time Warner Cable, has six franchises in Hawaii.

According to a spokesperson at the DCCA, state regulations mandate no cable franchise can have a change of ownership without approval of the department’s director. The state rules also require public hearings to be hosted regarding the proposal.

This is the second time in the past year Oceanic Time Warner’s parent company has been part of a planned merger.

Last year, a planned $45 billion bid from Comcast to purchase the company prompted enough concern from consumer advocacy groups and federal regulators that it ultimately was dropped.

In that case, the primary concern was that the merger would put about 55 percent of broadband subscribers under one company and in doing so pose “an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation,” Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said at the time.

According to an announcement from the DCCA, Charter and Time Warner Cable have stated their commitment to a “free and open Internet” and to expanding digital infrastructure.

The application includes a commitment to expand broadband and digital cable, including the full transition of Time Warner’s cable systems to all-digital within 30 months of the merger.

Charter pledged to provide service to unserved areas and increase WiFi access points for its mobile network. It also will, according to the application, “continue to create thousands of U.S.-based jobs by hiring for customer service call centers and field technician operations located throughout the country, and (by) returning (Time Warner Cable) call center jobs to the U.S.”

Charter currently serves more than 4.8 million residential customers, according to the merger application. The resulting company — New Charter — would serve about 23.9 million customers in 41 states.

It would be the third-largest multichannel video programming distributor in the country, after AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast.

Big Island residents will have a chance to offer comment during two public hearings next month.

Hilo will host a hearing at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Aupuni Center conference room. On Sept. 10, a hearing takes place at 4:30 p.m. in Kona at the West Hawaii Civic Center Community Meeting Hale.

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Public comment also can be provided by emailing cabletv@dcca.hawaii.gov. Written comments can be sent to Cable Television Division, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, PO Box 541, Honolulu, HI 96809.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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