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Charter on hook for $15M in upgrades to Chatham network


Reprinted with permission of the Times Union

ALBANY — Charter Communications is being forced to spend about $15 million over the next few years to upgrade the cable TV and Internet system in its Chatham territory as part of a deal with state regulators.

The upgrades will cost about $6,000 per customer. Charter must foot the entire bill.

The upgrades are required as part of a list of conditions that Charter has agreed to as part of the state Public Service Commission’s approval last week of the company’s $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Charter currently only serves two small pockets of customers the state, including about 14,000 customers in Plattsburgh and 2,500 customers in Chatham and other parts of Columbia County.

However, even though Charter is known for offering cheap, high-speed Internet and customer-friendly TV products, its Chatham system is notoriously antiquated, with analog TV service that doesn’t support video on demand, and no Internet.

By 2018, Charter must provide its Chatham customers with 100 megabits-per-second Internet service, and it must switch the Chatham TV system to all-digital service as well within 30 months.

That requirement mirrors what Charter must offer to former Time Warner Cable customers statewide. Charter is also required to expand its network to reach 145,000 customers in the current Time Warner Cable footprint who currently cannot get service, especially customers in rural areas. The Chatham upgrades are in addition to the statewide expansion requirements.

Charter spokesman Justin Venech said on Monday, January 18, that the merger will give Charter the resources to upgrade the system in Chatham, which Mr. Venech said isn’t a typical representation of Charter’s operations. He said that will be achieved by connecting the Chatham customer base to Time Warner Cable’s network, which essentially surrounds it.

“Chatham is part of a small number of Charter systems, representing less than one percent of Charter’s overall subscribers, where technical challenges have hampered Charter’s objective of converting those systems to all-digital,” Mr. Venech said. “If the transaction is approved, (Charter) would be able to utilize (Time Warner Cable’s) system resources near the Chatham area to facilitate the task of upgrading and converting the Chatham system to all-digital.”

The deal is still awaiting federal approval, although the New York approval was a major hurdle.

To contact reporter Larry Rulison email lrulison@timesunion­.com.

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