AP NEWS

Charter Communications gains latest extension for New York exit plan

March 7, 2019

STAMFORD — Cable-and-internet giant Charter Communications has received another extension, until May 3, for submitting a state-mandated plan to leave New York state as it works toward a settlement with regulators that could allow it to keep operating there.

The Stamford-based firm was ordered to file a proposal to exit the state within six months, after a July 2018 decision by the New York Public Service Commission to revoke its approval of Charter’s 2016 merger agreement with Time Warner Cable. The PSC has accused Charter of failing to meet its service obligations to customers and making misleading statements about its offerings, but it has since granted several requests by the company to push back the filing date.

“The February extension order had anticipated that Charter and the (public service) department would continue to work toward a term sheet and a full written agreement,” Charter said Tuesday, in its latest application for an extended deadline. “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.”

Charter — which markets it services under the Spectrum brand name — became New York state’s largest internet service provider after its $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable for $55 billion.

“It does not surprise me that Charter is trying to remain active in New York state,” said David Souder, associate dean of graduate programs in the University of Connecticut’s business school. “Although cable TV subscriptions are declining nationwide, providing internet service remains an important service with strong profit potential. Charter already has the infrastructure in place, and it makes sense to keep it in use.”

But the company has grappled with controversies in the state since it completed the TWC takeover.

Separate from the Public Service Commission case, Charter agreed last December to pay about $174 million to settle a lawsuit from the state’s attorney general that accused it of failing to deliver the fast and reliable connections it had promised.

Among its allegations, the lawsuit said Charter leased deficient modems and wireless routers and aggressively marketed, and charged more for, “headline” download speeds, while failing to maintain enough network capacity to consistently deliver them.

Charter’s direct restitution of $62.5 million, for more than 700,000 active subscribers, equaled rebates of $75 to $150 for each customer.

In addition, Charter agreed to provide free streaming services to its New York internet subscribers. All customers receiving internet and cable from the company could choose between three free months of HBO or six free months of Showtime.

During the past two years, the company has also grappled with a strike of several hundred New York technicians.

Nationwide, Charter now serves 26.2 million residences and 1.8 million small and medium-size businesses. In the past quarter, its total customer base grew about 3 percent from a year ago.

In Stamford, the company is building a new headquarters at 406 Washington Blvd. The company is now based a few blocks away at 400 Atlantic St.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott