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Governor defends PSC's legal actions against Charter Communications

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The New York State Public Service Commission is taking legal action against the parent company of a local cable television and internet provider, threatening a million-dollar fine and possible re-evaluation of its cable TV franchise deal in New York City. During a visit to Rochester Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the state's position regarding Charter Communications.

Charter Communications is the parent company of Spectrum Media. Two years ago, Charter completed a $78 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. As part of New York State's willingness to approve the deal, Charter agreed to expand broadband service to underserved areas throughout the state, on a set schedule.

While visiting Rochester, Cuomo suggested Charter has fallen short of expectations.

"Left to their own devices, they will only bring broadband to high-density areas, because they make more money," Cuomo said. "We specifically said 'here's a schedule,' because I want everyone to have broadband and if you want this lucrative franchise, you have to bring broadband statewide. They are delinquent on that."

Cuomo says the company has also fallen short of promises to improve its customer services. 

In addition to imposing a $1 million fine, the PSC may take a second look at Spectrum's franchise rights in New York City.

The Public Service Commission, in March, issued Charter an "order to show cause" in order to prove it's been acting in full compliance. It now has until May 9 to do so. 

The company, in a written statement, insists it has been keeping up its end of the agreement: "Charter is bringing more broadband to more people across New York State. We exceeded our last buildout commitment by thousands of homes and businesses. We've also raised our speeds to deliver faster broadband statewide. We are in full compliance with our merger order and the New York City franchise, and we will fight these baseless actions vigorously."

Governor Cuomo on Thursday said the people of New York State are "not threatened."

"Whether it's a utility company or a cable company, just because you're a big company it doesn't mean there's a different set of rules," Cuomo said. "On behalf of the State of New York, we're not going to be intimidated by large, powerful corporations."

Charter's Spectrum Cable also faced some heat in Buffalo's City Hall earlier this week. The Common Council's Finance Committee heard complaints from customers saying they cannot afford to keep up with the Spectrum's conversion to digital, which requires a cable box for every television used in a home or business. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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