MALONE –– Charter Communications is failing to meet the requirements of its agreement with New York state that allowed the company to merge with Time Warner Cable, and a mapping project in Franklin County could help show just where the company is falling short, a representative of a nonprofit that works to address issues in the Adirondacks told the county Legislature on Thursday.
The mapping project could help bolster the case that Charter has failed to abide by the terms of its settlement with the state that calls for significant expansion of high-speed internet service in unserved and underserved areas of the state, AdkAction board Chairman Dave Wolff said in his presentation to the Legislature.
A 2016 agreement that allowed Charter/Spectrum to merge with Time Warner Cable was contingent on the combined company expanding broadband access to 145,000 homes in largely rural areas of the state. About 80,000 homes were to have been added in the past year, Wolff said, but Charter has been counting new subscribers who do not represent an actual expansion of its broadband network.
For example, Wolff said, the company has been counting people who are located within an existing service area who simply sign up for internet service as an expansion, even though their addition does not increase the area being served. Charter is also counting homes in “overbuild” areas –– areas already served by another internet provider where Charter has installed its own lines –– as an expansion of broadband, he said.
“They are pushing the limits of the settlement agreement is a nice way to say it,” Wolff said.
Wolff cited the Essex County town of Lewis, where Charter claims to have added 52 addresses to its network. However, 19 of those 52 are not eligible to be counted as an expansion, as they already had high-speed internet available but had simply not signed on previously or had previously paid to have the necessary cable run to their residences, he said.
Charter representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
The state Public Service Commission is monitoring Charter’s activities, but Wolff said the PSC is “trying to audit from the top down.” The mapping project he proposed to county legislators, which would show broadband access at the level of individual properties, would use information collected locally by local officials who are familiar with conditions in their communities, he said.
County legislators expressed some interest in the plan but were concerned about the potential cost at a time when county finances are stretched thin. County Manager Donna Kissane also noted that some of the information necessary for the project is covered by nondisclosure agreements, which could open the county up to legal action if shared.
Legislators took no action on Wolff’s proposal Thursday, saying they wanted to explore the ramifications of the project before going forward.