charterMetro Council on Thursday passed a resolution approving the transfer of Louisville’s cable television rights from Time Warner Cable to Charter Communications, though the switch will not become official until a federal review of the merger between the two companies.

Mark Brown, the vice president and counsel for Charter, briefly addressed the council’s Democratic Caucus before the vote, highlighting their commitment to increase broadband speed and provide affordable Internet rates to low-income residents. He was accompanied by former Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, hired temporarily as a consultant, and Bob Babbage, the company’s prominent Frankfort lobbyist.

While Brown said the details for low-income access to affordable services have not been finalized, he told Insider Louisville that customers’ can expect their Internet speed to be at least four times faster under Charter.

“It will be robust and we believe it will compare favorably with other broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast,” said Brown. “Right now, Time Warner has 15 megabit service, that’s their base service. Our lowest tier for the 6.3 million customers we have now is 60 megabits, which is four times faster than the lowest speed that Time Warner offers. We also have made that speed increase without a commensurate increase in price.”

The transfer will not go into effect until a federal review of Charter’s $56.7 billion acquisition of TWC is completed. Brown said he hoped this would be approved by the end of the year, once the Federal Communication Commission determines whether the merger is in the public interest, and the Department of Justice determines what effect the merger would have on competition. Both entities opposed a proposed merger between TWC and Comcast earlier this year, arguing it would threaten competition and innovation, shortly before it was scrapped and Charter swooped in.

Once the deal is finalized, Brown said, Charter will immediately begin investing in further improvement of infrastructure throughout the city.

“That will be an investment process,” said Brown. “Time Warner has already partially digitized the network, which is what you have to do in order to be able to offer the broadband speed. We will complete that process.”

According to the settlement agreement attached to the resolution, Charter says it will improve download speeds up to 60 Mbps in Louisville within 24 months, “with the ultimate goal of providing base download speeds up to 100 Mbps.” Additionally, Charter says it will “offer a low-cost broadband program for certain qualifying low-income consumers” within three years.

In the settlement agreement, Charter was less certain that none of the 2,600 call center jobs split between TWC and Charter within Louisville would be lost, though it says Charter “has no plans” to decrease those jobs and “hopes” to increase them.

The settlement agreement also says Charter will provide free basic 20 Mbps Internet service and outdoor “hot spot” WiFi to five locations, to be selected by Mayor Greg Fischer in consultation with Metro Council.

The Fischer administration is in support of the transfer to Charter, while it continues its push for Louisville to become the next Google Fiber city, which would offer Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. Mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter said the transfer to Charter would not affect Louisville’s chances of being approved by Google.

Ward-Pugh told IL that while Google Fiber is a possibility, “Charter is already here and they’re making a commitment to Louisville,” a sentiment echoed by Brown.

“We can’t really speak to what Google’s plans are,” said Brown. “But Charter is committed to having a partnership with the city of Louisville. And I think it’s important to note that as part of our investment in the community, we would be building out ubiquitously throughout the entire community, we’d be providing our services throughout the entire community.”

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]