Overnight Regulation: Charter, Time Warner Cable merger gets green light

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Monday evening here in Washington and we're gearing up for another busy week, 

Here's what else is happening. 

 

THE BIG STORY 

Federal regulators are clearing the way for Charter Communications to buy Time Warner Cable in a deal valued at $88 million.

The deal would create the nation's third largest cable TV provider with about 17 million subscribers and the second-largest Internet service provider.

The Hill's Mario Trujillo has the full report: http://bit.ly/1ruXAfk

The Justice Department signed off on a settlement to allow the merger to go forward. And Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an order to approve the merger to the four other commissioners.

The deal will come with a series of conditions. Charter will be barred from imposing data caps on its Internet customers for seven years. For that time, it will also be barred from charging interconnection fees on web companies like Netflix, which are responsible for a significant amount of online traffic.

Charter had voluntarily agreed to those conditions for three years, winning over critics of past merger proposals, like Netflix.  
"The conditions that will be imposed ensure Charter's current consumer-friendly and pro-broadband businesses practices will be maintained by New Charter," Charter said in a statement after the deal was announced.

The Justice Department on Monday sued in order to enforce its own conditions on the cable TV side of the merger.

With its huge share of the TV market, Charter won't be allowed to restrict programmers from distributing their content online and through cable. The Justice Department said Time Warner Cable, with its 11 million subscribers, has been the "most aggressive" cable company in trying to negotiate those restrictions on TV programmers.

"Under the terms of the proposed settlement, New Charter will be prohibited from entering into or enforcing any agreement with a programmer that forbids, limits or creates incentives to limit the programmer's provision of content to one or more [online video distributors]," the Justice Department said.

The proposed merger will still have to be approved by the entire FCC. But the circulation of the order to approve by the chairman signals that he has the votes to get it through. The California Public Utilities Commission will also have to sign off on the deal. 

 

ON TAP FOR TUESDAY 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up a number of bills, including legislation to make the Federal Communications Commission more transparent. http://1.usa.gov/23Q7Csf

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to examine business tax reform. http://1.usa.gov/1VUdwnm

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 199 new regulations proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register.

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--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will delay new mortgage servicing rules under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The CFPB is reopening the comment period for a rule that affects borrowers who are filing for bankruptcy.

The public has 30 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1VOEEEP

--The Department of Energy (DOE) will issue new requirements for hydroelectric facilities seeking incentive payments.

The document affects which type of information hydroelectric facilities can use to apply for the incentives under a federal program to boost energy generation. "This incentive is available for electric energy generated and sold for a specified 10-year period," the agency writes.

Hydroelectric facilities have until the end of May to apply. http://bit.ly/21d8W3w

--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue a new life sciences requirement.

The direct final rule will require "certain domestic institutions that receive contract funding from EPA to conduct or sponsor life sciences research."

The rule goes into effect in 60 days. http://bit.ly/1qN6aF6

--The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will expand a drug treatment program for inmates.

The rule goes into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1qN6bJc

  

NEWS RIGHT NOW

Sperm donation needs federal regulation (Time Magazine). http://ti.me/21da8Uu

EPA smog rule 'unachievable,' opponents say. http://bit.ly/1XSJaPV

Senate Dems call for powdered caffeine ban. http://bit.ly/21d9Mgq

CDC: E-cig ads led to increased youth smoking rates. http://bit.ly/1XSJnTd

China reviewing revised NGO regulations (Voice of America). http://bit.ly/1NLzgKm

Groups sue FEC over dismissed complaints. http://bit.ly/1QxrraW

Supreme Court hears patent case with broad ramifications for industry. http://bit.ly/21d9DK4

Spies see obstacles for calculating surveillance of Americans. http://bit.ly/1NtBBP8

 

BY THE NUMBERS

28: Number of cups of coffee you must drink to consume one teaspoon of caffeine. Dems are calling for a ban on powdered caffeine: http://bit.ly/21d9Mgq

13: Percent of high school students using e-cigarettes. A new CDC report says e-cig ads are contributing to increased youth smoking rates. http://bit.ly/1XSJnTd

 

TWEET OF THE DAY 

"Build-out conditions for proposed New Charter will increase broadband deployment for additional 2 million consumers," FCC Chair Tom Wheeler tweeted Monday after regulators gave the green light for a merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable. http://bit.ly/1ruXAfk

 

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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