Cable service meeting draws little attention

It was a quiet meeting as all cable service for the state was commented upon Thursday night in the West Hawaii Civic Center. There were only two comments made about pending change in service providers.

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It was a quiet meeting as all cable service for the state was commented upon Thursday night in the West Hawaii Civic Center. There were only two comments made about pending change in service providers.

The question is if Oceanic Time Warner’s cable franchises on the islands should be transferred to Charter Communications. If approved, Charter Communications would take over providing service for the entire state.

The debate is being overseen and decided by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

This is against the backdrop of a merger plan between Time Warner, Charter and Bright House Networks, which will be decided by the Federal Communications Commission.

One comment came from Stacy Higa, general manager of Na Leo O Hawaii, the public access TV station.

He was unable to attend and his statement was read by an employee.

Higa’s statement highlighted the ongoing relationship the station had with Oceanic and how important it was to free speech. He also asked that a new company stabilize prices and continue to support access.

He also said the islands have a unique history and unique culture that have to be considered.

Mark E. Brown, vice president and counsel of government affairs for Charter, said in a prepared statement that this combination would lead to a customer-focused company with room for even more growth.

He said their expansion into the island will include bringing in Oceanic’s former employees and increasing the level of training. He highlighted the company’s decision to do more technician work in-house and to bring call center jobs back to the U.S.

He also said the company will move toward an all-digital format, which will “free up spectrum, allowing Charter to provide faster broadband speeds and significantly more high-definition and on-demand channels.”

There have been several meetings to provide public comment.

Charter committed to adding 1 million lines of service throughout its franchise area. Responding to a question from the DCCA, it said it could not commit to how many would be within the Hawaii franchise areas, citing the fact it had not “thoroughly inspected the operations” in the state of Hawaii.

It gave a similar response to the planned expansion of 300,000 new Wi-Fi hotspots across its franchise area.

The company is committed to providing a new low-income broadband service, he said.

Originally the discussion was the merger of the parent company of Time Warner Oceanic and Comcast Corp.

Consumer advocacy groups had called for the Federal Trade Commission to block the merger, saying that the union of the two largest cable providers in the country would negatively impact consumers.

Comcast withdrew from the merger in May.

“Oceanic, through its undersigned counsel, would like to take the opportunity to assure you that Time Warner Cable remains financially and operationally strong, and is committed to continue to deliver great experiences to its customers,” the company wrote in its withdrawal letter.

This action does not involve the desired merger of Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks. The decision on that rests with the Federal Communications Commission.

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A decision will be reached by mid-November, said Catherine P. Awakuni Colon, director of the DCCA. For full consideration she asked they be submitted by Sept. 25.

Those who can’t make it to the meetings are also able to submit testimony before and after, via email at cabletv@dcca.hawaii.gov, fax at 586-2625 or mail at: Cable Television Division, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 541, Honolulu, HI 96809.

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