Franken concerned $76B takeover could hit MN's rural broadband customers


Concern that Minnesota's rural residents and businesses will suffer led Sen. Al Franken to take aim at another proposed merger of media conglomerates.

After playing a major role in the (ultimately successful) opposition to Time Warner's merger with Comcast, Franken has now turned his attention to Charter Communications' attempt to buy Time Warner Cable.

His main point of concern: With Charter having a presence as a broadband provider in Minnesota, he worries the merger could cause the company to ignore rural customers in favor of the more lucrative urban markets.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler this week, Franken writes: "In my home state of Minnesota, a large number of households do not have access to internet speeds of 25mbps or higher. And although Charter is present in many of Minnesota's rural counties, its service is largely focused in the more concentrated population centers and does not extend to the harder-to-reach homes."

Charter has actually promised to invest in broadband service for rural areas if it successfully acquires Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, in a deal worth an estimated $76 billion.

According to Deadline, Charter says it would "make comprehensive and significant investments in its broadband network," adding more than a million line extensions in its current services areas, mostly to "rural and other undeserved areas," bringing 60 megabits per second download speeds to areas it's not currently available.

And while he praises this commitment, Franken is concerned the company hasn't given an indication as to where and when these improvements would be made, and worries the money Charter is spending on the takeover might not leave much to improve its broadband offering.

There is huge demand among smaller communities in Minnesota to improve broadband access for residents and businesses.

Last month it was revealed that 44 applications totaling $30 million in requests had been submitted for a share of just $10.5 million-worth of state funding available for rural broadband infrastructure projects.

A study earlier this year found that $200 million of investment was required to improve rural broadband access in Minnesota.

BringMeTheNews has requested a comment from Charter on Sen. Franken's letter.

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