ALBANY — Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum cable, was ordered by New York regulators Thursday to pay a $2 million fine for not building out its cable network and expanding high-speed internet service.
The state Public Service Commission said Charter, which acquired Time Warner Cable in 2016, failed to meet its obligations under the state's approval of the acquisition.
The commission also threatened Thursday to revoke its approval of the merger if Charter doesn't agree to the penalty.
“As a condition of our approval of Charter’s merger two years ago, we required Charter to make significant investments in its network,” John Rhodes, the PSC chairman said, in a statement.
“Our investigation shows that Charter failed to meet its obligations to expand the reach of its network to unserved and underserved customers at the required pace and that it failed to justify why it wasn’t able to meet its obligations."
The state agency said it found Charter failed to meet its buildout obligations, contending that 18,363 addresses across many of New York's largest cities were bypassed.
The majority were in New York City, but addresses weren't also added to the network in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Schenectady, Albany, and Mount Vernon, the agency said.
The state ordered Charter to go back and service the areas it identified and submit a revised buildout plan within 21 days.
Charter, based in Stamford, Conn., disputed the commission's findings and has said repeatedly that it has exceeded its expansion goals.
“Spectrum has expanded its network infrastructure to bring broadband to tens of thousands of residences and businesses in New York State," Charter said in a statement
"We exceeded our last commitment and we continue to meet our merger obligations.”
The $2 million fine is the latest fight between the PSC and Charter over its expansion of cable services, particularly broadband, to parts of New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also criticized Charter for any ongoing labor dispute with its workers.
Two years ago, the PSC said in exchange for its approval of Charter's acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the company would need to add infrastructure to serve an additional 145,000 unserved and underserved residential housing units and businesses within four years.
But the PSC has contended that Charter has repeatedly failed to meet its targets — including a threat earlier this year to fine the company $1 million.
So the $2 million fine, the commission said, is the result of failing to miss expansion goals by December 2017 and then not correcting them in subsequent months.
2 On Your Side went to Gasport Thursday where one family says living without broadband is like living in the 1990s.
Angela Spark doesn't have broadband on her farm in Gasport.
"The only internet access we have is on our phones," says Spark.
Spark says her home is one of more than three-hundred in the Town of Royalton that doesn't have access to Spectrum internet.
"Everything you do nowadays is on the internet. Your prescriptions have to come through the mail, you do it on the internet. You get charged extra money for your bills if you get paper billing in the mail rather than internet bills in your email," she says.
Without high-speed internet, Spark and her husband are limited in the technology they can use to run their farm. It's also a problem for their son.
"We have a son who is 26 and is handicapped and is unable to drive. He is currently getting his Masters Degree through UB and the best way for him to do that is online. In order for him to do that, he has to go to family members houses, my mother, or right now he's currently at the Lockport library using their internet access," says Spark.
Spark says she can see lines Charter ran near her home, but they aren't hooked up.
"It's a right. You really should have it. Everyone should have it,"she says.
A Charter spokesperson told 2 On Your Side she would look into when internet service would finally be available at the Spark's farm.