Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Business

Charter Communications' purchase of Bright House Networks is a done deal

Charter Communications completed its $71 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable on Wednesday, making the Stamford, Conn., telecom the Tampa Bay area's largest Internet and cable TV provider.

There was little fanfare surrounding the long-expected close, and there was little reaction from Bright House and Time Warner customers — a stark contrast from another recent Tampa Bay telecom merger, the April 1 takeover of Verizon services by Frontier Communications.

"Bright House customers shouldn't see any changes today or any changes for the coming months," Justin Venech, a Charter spokesman in Connecticut, said Wednesday. "We've acquired all of Bright House, and for us it's more of a staged (rollout), there's no one-day mass change of data. The nature of the beast is different."

Verizon customers who woke up April 1 with Frontier service complained immediately and repeatedly about lengthy service outages, lousy customer service and poor response by technicians. That situation eventually led to intervention last week by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and an "action plan" from Frontier.

By design, there were apparently no such issues with the Charter strategy.

Venech said Charter will be "doing things behind the scenes" to make Bright House and Time Warner systems all digital; grow the workforce and improve service by bringing to the United States all overseas call centers; and launch broadband-friendly policies such as minimum speeds of 60 megabits per second with no data caps, no usage-based pricing and no modem lease fees. The company will bring its Spectrum brand packaging and pricing to Tampa Bay, with the entire process likely taking two years.

"Current Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable customers won't see many changes right away, though in the coming months they will begin to hear more from us about the Spectrum brand, and the product improvements and consumer-friendly policies that come with it," Charter chairman and chief executive Tom Rutledge said in a statement announcing the deal's closure. "Charter's objective is to provide high-quality products at great prices, and back it up with excellent customer service, and we intend to continually improve the way we do business in order to be the very best at what we do."

The deal, originally valued at $67 billion when announced last year, has been adjusted upward to reflect higher stock prices. Charter shares closed Wednesday at $227.41, up $24.05 or 11.83 percent on the day, and the stock is trading about $50 a share higher than a year ago.

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