Charter meets with FCC chairman to talk merger, net neutrality

Charter Communications President Tom Rutledge sat down this week with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler in what appears to be the first publicly disclosed meeting since the company announced its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. 

The FCC, along with the Justice Department, must give the go-ahead for the merger to go through. Comcast's attempt to merge with Time Warner Cable fell through earlier this year after regulatory concerns about harm to competition in the online video market. 

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The one-page disclosure filing released Friday is brief and written with the knowledge it will be made public. But Charter argued the merger would be good for consumers and not harm competition. 

"Mr. Rutledge explained that the transactions will bring substantial consumer benefits, including providing a better Internet experience for watching on-line video, gaming, and using other data-hungry apps at more competitive prices, and that the mergers will not harm competition," according to the filing. 

Aside from merger talks, the two sides also discussed the FCC's controversial new net neutrality order. In the meeting, Rutledge agreed that the new rules would not harm Charter's investment in building out its network.

The FCC has attempted to push back on the idea the new rules would harm investment — an argument pushed by a number of telecom companies that are challenging the new rules. 

Rutledge qualified that by saying the company is worried about how the decision to reclassify broadband Internet will lead to regulatory uncertainty and unintended consequences. But the company noted its support for rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. 

The proposed deal, in which Charter would also buy Bright House Networks, was announced in late May. Others in the meeting Tuesday were Charter's Catherine Bohigian, FCC General Counsel Jonathan Sallet and FCC Senior Counselor Phil Verveer. 

When the proposed deal was announced, Wheeler said every merger is judged on the merits of whether it is in the public interest. 

"In applying the public interest test, an absence of harm is not sufficient. The Commission will look to see how American consumers would benefit if the deal were to be approved," he said.