FCC Stamps Altice-Suddenlink Deal

Says Deal Unlikely to Result in Significant Public Interest Harms
FCC HQ.jpg

The FCC has stamped its approval on Altice Group’s proposed $9.1 billion acquisition of Suddenlink Communications.

Altice and Suddenlink announced the deal in May, with Altice agreeing to acquire a 70% interest in the mid-sized, St. Louis-based MSO, which has about 1.5 million subs in about dozen states, including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. France-based Altice also has a deal in place to acquire Cablevision Systems for $17.7 billion, a move that make Altice the fourth-largest U.S. cable operator.

“We conclude that granting the Applications serves the public interest,” the FCC said in an order and opinion released Friday. “Based on our careful review of the record, we find the transaction is unlikely to result in any significant public interest harms,” the FCC said in the order.  “We find that the transaction is likely to result in some public interest benefits of increased investment in local networks facilities and broadband services in Suddenlink’s service territory.”

The FCC  noted that Altice doesn’t currently serve the U.S. market, so the deal doesn’t reduce the number of providers in local, regional or national markets.

“We find that certain issues raised in comments are not relevant to the transaction and are therefore outside the scope of our review,” the FCC added.

The FCC also agreed that Altice has a track record of investing in and improving the broadband offerings of the companies it acquires. Numericable, for example, has upgraded its network to deliver between 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps today, versus 1 Mbps in 2013.

“We find nothing in the record leading us to conclude that Altice will deviate from what Applicants describe as a ‘demonstrated track record’ of investing in the service providers Altice acquires, while improving its offerings and competitive position in the market, to the benefit of consumers,” the Commission said.

The FCC also acknowledged that the deal will ensure that Suddenlink has access to significant resources to realize the objectives of the MSO’s Project Gigaspeed initiative, which aims to raise the operator’s top broadband speed to 1 Gbps in 90% of its footprint by 2017.

Suddenlink announced Thursday that it had extended access to its 1-Gig residential offering (based on DOCSIS 3.0 technology)  to three more markets -- Mammoth Lakes, Calif.; Greenville, Miss.; and Parkersburg, W. Va.

The Department of Justice signed off on the deal Dec. 11.

The approval was not a surprise. There were only a handful of comments on the proposal.

The FCC had put off ruling until DOJ, the FBI and Homeland Security had a chance to do a national security review of the deal given that Altice is a foreign-owned company.

Along with DOJ, the FBI and Homeland Security had signaled they had no issues, either.

John Eggerton contributed to this report