The New York attorney general's office is looking to Charter Communications to make Time Warner Cable's Internet service less "abysmal."
In a Wednesday letter to Charter CEO Tom Rutledge, Tim Wu, senior enforcement counsel and special advisor to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, called on the ISP to do more than rebrand as it integrates with Time Warner Cable.
In April, the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission greenlit Charter's $78 billion acquisition of TWC and the related $10.4 billion purchase of Bright House Networks, merging the country's second-, fourth-, and tenth-largest cable providers.
The Time Warner and Bright House systems will now operate under Charter's Spectrum brand, something Charter has been publicizing with TV ads and mailings to customers. In his letter, however, Wu wrote to "underscore our hope and expectation that this announcement reflects more than mere branding—and signals your intent to substantially improve the reliability, performance, and speed of the Internet delivered to customers, as well as how Time Warner Cable markets its services."
In October, Schneiderman sent Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable letters asking for copies of disclosures made to customers and details about Internet speed tests. TWC promises customers "blazing fast," "super-reliable" Internet speeds, but speed tests conducted by TWC users were "troubling," Wu wrote.
"It appears that the company has been failing to take adequate or necessary steps to keep pace with the demand of Time Warner Cable customers—at times letting connections with key Internet content providers become so congested that large volumes of Internet data were regularly lost or discarded," Wu wrote. "This translates into degraded performance for customers, including those using popular on-demand video services, like Netflix—despite specific promises from Time Warner Cable that they could stream video content reliably and with 'no buffering.' The problems appear to have been particularly acute at primetime, precisely when many customers log on or tune in. Customers have been frustrated, as movies freeze."
In short, TWC results were "abysmal," Wu concluded. "Not only did Time Warner Cable fail to achieve the speeds its customers were promised and paid for (which Time Warner Cable blamed on the testing method), it generally performed worse in this regard than other New York broadband providers."
Wu called on Charter to work with Schneiderman's office and "clean up Time Warner Cable's act and deliver the quality Internet service New Yorkers deserve and have long been promised."
In a statement, Charter said it has "has made significant investments in our core infrastructure," which will allow it to provide TWC and Bright House customers with "broadband speeds starting at up to 60Mbps, no data caps, no usage-based billing, and no modem lease fees to all our customers."
"In addition, Charter's interconnection policies have been lauded by companies such as Netflix as a real benefit of these transactions for consumers," the company continued. "We look forward to bringing all these enhancements to customers in NY and redefining what a cable company can be."
Interconnection deals provide services like Netflix with direct access to an ISP's network, which translates into faster Netflix service for subscribers of those ISPs. Netflix has argued that paying for such access is a net neutrality violation, something with which major ISPs like Verizon and Comcast vigorously disagree. Under the terms of the Charter-TWC deal, however, Charter promised not to charge companies like Netflix for access to its network, prompting Netflix to issue its support for the deal.