Representative Anthony Brindisi

Representing the 22nd District of New York

ON HEELS OF NY AG ACTION AND PSC INVESTIGATION, BRINDISI TELLS FCC CHAIRMAN TO HOLD CHARTER/SPECTRUM ACCOUNTABLE

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January 29, 2019
Press Release

Brindisi Brings Fight to Federal Level; Tells FCC Chairman He Will Not Back Down in His Work to Hold Charter/Spectrum Accountable

Brindisi: Committed to Expanding Rural Broadband Access, Fostering Competition to Benefit Consumers

Brindisi Invites FCC Chairman to Visit NY-22, Better Understand Challenges and Needs of Rural Consumers

On the heels of the New York Attorney General’s action and the ongoing Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation into Charter/Spectrum, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to outline its plans to hold Charter/Spectrum accountable and the steps it will take to ensure Upstate New Yorkers finally have access to affordable high-speed broadband.

In the New York State Assembly, Brindisi led the fight against Charter/Spectrum after hearing from thousands of constituents unhappy about frequent rate hikes and poor customer service.

Now as a member of Congress, Brindisi is continuing his fight on the federal level, ensuring the FCC is following through to hold Charter/Spectrum accountable. The FCC based its approval of the 2016 Charter-Time Warner Cable merger on a promise by Charter that the company would expand access to high-speed broadband for 2 million customers. Brindisi demanded the FCC provide data on how many consumers have actually received this promised service improvement. Brindisi also called on the FCC to immediately revoke the merger approval if Charter has failed to expand high-speed broadband to rural consumers.   

“As you know, on May 5, 2016 the FCC approved the applications of Charter, Time Warner Cable Inc., and Advance/Newhouse Partnership who were seeking to merge into a larger Charter. Since that merger, and the transition from Time Warner to Charter/Spectrum hundreds of my constituents have contacted me to share stories of exorbitant rate increases. Some people who were paying just over $100 a month for cable and internet service were paying about $200 a month for the same service just two years later. For working families and seniors living on a fixed income, these rate increases are unacceptable,” wrote Brindisi.

In July 2018, the PSC said Charter/Spectrum failed to follow through on the 2016 Time-Warner Cable merger obligations to expand the reach of its network to unserved and underserved customers. In response to that failure, the PSC ordered the company to prepare a plan to exit its New York operations.  The PSC recently granted an additional 21-day extension, until March 4, for Charter/Spectrum to file an exit plan.

In December 2018, after six months of pressure from Brindisi, the State Attorney General’s Office also announced a $174 million settlement with Charter/Spectrum—the largest of its kind in U.S. history.  Spectrum will provide over $100 million in services to consumers and provide $62 million in refunds to customers it says the company defrauded with false claims in its advertisements about internet speeds.

New York’s 22nd Congressional District is more than 50 percent rural, with roughly 375,000 people living in rural communities according to the U.S. Census. Brindisi has pledged to make expanding access to rural broadband a top priority during his time in Congress and invited FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai to visit NY-22 to better understand the challenges facing rural communities.

“Chairman Pai, I know you share my commitment to expanding broadband access to rural communities and fostering competition to benefit consumers,” Brindisi continued. “During my time in Congress, it will be my mission to expand access to broadband for rural consumers in my district, and I hope to partner with you on this issue.”

The following is the text of the letter Brindisi wrote to Chairman Pai:

Dear Chairman Pai:

I write today regarding the ongoing challenges my constituents are experiencing with Charter Communications, Inc (Charter). As you know, on May 5, 2016 the FCC approved the applications of (Charter), Time Warner Cable Inc. (Time Warner Cable), and Advance/Newhouse Partnership (Advance/Newhouse or Bright House) who were seeking to merge into a larger Charter. Since that merger, and the transition from Time Warner to Charter/Spectrum, hundreds of my constituents have contacted me to share stories of exorbitant rate increases. Some people who were paying just over $100 a month for cable and internet service were paying about $200 a month for the same service just two years later. For working families and seniors living on a fixed income, these rate increases are unacceptable.

As you may know the State Attorney General’s Office of New York announced a $174 million settlement with Charter/Spectrum late last year, the largest of its kind in U.S. history. Spectrum will provide over $100 million in services to consumers and provide $62 million in refunds to customers the company defrauded with false claims in its advertisements about internet speeds. Further, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) revoked Spectrum’s 2016 acquisition of Time-Warner Cable’s assets in New York last July and gave the company 60 days to file a “six month exit plan.” Since then, Charter has received several extensions from the PSC, and the company currently has until March 4th to file its exit strategy.

The 2016 FCC settlement required “New Charter” to undertake a build out program that will deploy high-speed broadband to 2 million more homes and a low-income broadband program for eligible households.”[1] High speed broadband was described quite clearly as “at least a 60 Mbps download speed.”[2] Based on the experience in my community, this high-speed broadband has not been expanded to consumers in Upstate New York. I write today on behalf of my constituents to inquire:

1.      How does the FCC intend to monitor and enforce the 2016 requirement that Charter expand high-speed broadband to 2 million new customers?

2.      As of January 2019, how many customers of the needed 2 million has Charter brought access to?

3.      Should Charter not meet the conditions of the 2016 FCC agreement by the 2021 deadline, will the FCC commit to immediately revoking the agency’s approval of the merger?

Chairman Pai, I know you share my commitment to expanding broadband access to rural communities and fostering competition to benefit consumers. My district is more than 50% rural, with roughly 375,000 people living in rural communities according to the U.S. Census.  As you know, the rate of broadband deployment in urban areas has far outpaced deployment in rural and tribal areas. According to the FCC's Communications Marketplace Report, 24% of Americans in rural areas lack coverage from broadband, as compared to only 1.5% of Americans in urban areas. During my time in Congress, it will be my mission to expand access to broadband for rural consumers in my district, and I hope to partner with you on this issue.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter and your timely response. I would also like to invite you to come visit my district at your convenience, to learn more about expanding rural broadband in Upstate New York. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Anthony Brindisi

Member of Congress