Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable have agreed to merge, forming one of the biggest cable companies in the nation.
The acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter for $55.33 billion would unite two companies that have served Fort Payne. Time Warner entered the market in 2006 when it bought Adelphia out of bankruptcy, then sold its local franchise to Windjammer in 2009.
Windjammer divested its cable systems in Fort Payne, Cullman and Fort Benning, Georgia, to Charter in 2011.
John Malone’s Liberty Broadcast Corp., which owns more than a quarter of Charter’s stock, is backing the acquisition. The deal will put Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter in the same league as Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider.
In addition, Charter and Advance/Newhouse Partnership announced the two companies have amended a March agreement by which Charter will purchase Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion.
The combination of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House will serve 23.9 million customers in 41 states. Company officials said the merged company will be able to serve customers better, with new technologies.
“Representatives of each of these companies have invented some of the most revolutionary communications products ever created; innovations like video on demand, VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) phone service, remote storage DVR, cable TV through an app, downloadable security and the first backward-compatible, cloud-based user interface. That spirit of innovation will live on, and it will create real benefits and great long-term value for the customers, shareholders and employees of all three companies,” said Tom Rutledge, president and CEO of Charter Communications.
Comcast tried to purchase New York-based Time Warner Cable in 2014 and create the largest cable company in the nation, but both companies agreed to call off the deal earlier this year when it became clear that getting regulatory approval would be difficult.
Comcast has 27.2 million customers. The pending combination of AT&T and DirecTV would have 26.4 million TV customers and 16.7 million fixed Internet customers, as well as tens of millions of wireless customers.
Whether government regulators will approve the Charter deal after quashing Comcast’s bid for Time Warner Cable remains to be seen. The Comcast deal would have given it more than half of the country’s high-speed Internet subscribers, which the government feared would give it the power to undermine online video competitors.
Charter will have less than 30 percent of those fast-broadband customers, the company said Tuesday.
“We’re a very different company from Comcast and this is a very different transaction,” Rutledge said in a conference call Tuesday.
“We’re confident it’s going to get done,” said Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus.
In a statement Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said the FCC weighs every merger on its own to see if it will be in the public interest, and that “an absence of harm is not sufficient.”
He said the FCC “will look to see how American consumers would benefit” from the deal.
Since Charter entered the Fort Payne market, Rainsville-based Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative has expanded the reach of its cable television service through much of the city and also rolled out some of the fastest broadband Internet access in the country, including speeds at or above 1 gigabit per second.
Charter and its predecessors have held a franchise in Fort Payne for years despite persistent requests from the city government to improve local service and implement a local telephone number to handle complaints and service calls. Charter does operate a Fort Payne office at 302 Godfrey Ave. NE.