Charter gets a few more days to contest $1M penalty

State PSC faults cable TV provider on expansion of high-speed internet service
The Charter Communications logo at the company’s office in Stamford, Conn., on May 28, 2015.
The Charter Communications logo at the company’s office in Stamford, Conn., on May 28, 2015.

ALBANY — Charter Communications got a little more time this week to respond to fresh sanctions by state regulators.

The Public Service Commission on March 19 proposed penalizing the cable television company $1 million for not extending Internet service quickly enough and/or misreporting its progress toward doing so. It gave Charter until April 9 to respond.

On March 30, attorney Maureen Helmer wrote to the PSC on Charter’s behalf, requesting that the deadline be extended to May 14. Helmer said the company needed more time to investigate the thousands of addresses that PSC charged had been missed as Charter expanded its Internet infrastructure. Helmer, now a partner at law firm Barclay Damon, served as chair of the PSC for several years during the Pataki administration.

On April 4, PSC Secretary Kathleen Burgess responded, saying an extension to May 14 did not appear warranted. She instead extended Charter’s deadline to May 9 — a difference of three business days.

The matter stems in part from Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable in 2016. As a condition of that deal, PSC stipulated Charter must extend high-speed internet access to 145,000 new addresses across the state.

The PSC in June 2017 extracted a $1 million penalty from Charter, which by its own admission was reaching new addresses more slowly than called for in its timetable. Now, Charter is reporting that it’s ahead of schedule, but the PSC alleges Charter is artificially inflating its count. PSC wants a $1 million forfeiture from a $12 million letter of credit that Charter posted as it paid the first $1 million penalty a year ago.

In a second case pending against Charter, the PSC charges Charter may not be paying New York City the 5 percent of gross video revenue called for in its franchise agreement. The PSC notes that those payments have been decreasing since the merger. PSC also says Charter may not have extended cable service as extensively as required under its franchise agreements.

Charter denied both allegations in a statement issued in March to The Daily Gazette: “We are in full compliance with our merger order and the New York City franchise, and we will fight these baseless and legally suspect actions vigorously.”

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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