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Charter Can Charge Online Video Sites for Network Connections, Court Rules

Charter can charge Netflix and other online video streaming services for network interconnection despite a merger condition prohibiting the practice, a federal appeals court ruled today. From a report: The ruling [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturns two merger conditions that the Obama administration imposed on Charter when it bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016. The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai did not defend the merits of the merger conditions in court, paving the way for today’s ruling. The case was decided in a 2-1 vote by a panel of three DC Circuit judges.

The lawsuit against the FCC seeking to overturn Charter merger conditions was filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free-market think tank, and four Charter users who claim they were harmed by the conditions. The FCC unsuccessfully challenged the suing parties’ standing to sue, and it did not mount a legal defense of the conditions themselves. Though Charter did not file this lawsuit, the ISP separately asked the FCC to let the network-interconnection condition and a condition prohibiting data caps expire on May 18, 2021, two years earlier than scheduled. Today’s court’s ruling seems to render Charter’s petition moot as far as the network-interconnection condition goes, but the court ruling did not overturn the data-cap prohibition.

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