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Comcast pitches deal for Charter

Charter could disappear from Southern Oregon by next summer as part of a major deal that would allow communications giant Comcast to take over the local cable business and offer faster Internet speeds as well as Pac-12 Network college games.

“Charter becomes Comcast,” said Tim Goodman, director of government affairs for Comcast.

The deal will require Federal Communications Commission approval in the face of criticism by other media companies and consumer activists. In addition, Comcast is acquiring Time Warner Cable, a $45 billion merger.

Netflix has expressed concern over the Comcast deal, and Dish Network has told the FCC it should block Comcast from buying Time Warner because it would give Comcast too much power, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Despite the headwinds, Goodman said he expects the Time Warner deal could be wrapped up by the end of the year, and the Charter swap is expected by June 2015. Charter has about 11,000 customers in Medford, Goodman said.

Charter will take over cable and Internet services in the Midwest and South that are currently offered by Comcast. In exchange, Comcast will get Washington, Oregon and parts of California, Goodman said.

Ultimately, the Medford City Council will have to approve the transfer of the franchise from Charter to Comcast.

“We are going to get the Pac-12 Network, and that will make a lot of people happy," said Councilor Daniel Bunn. "We’ve got some good teams finally, and it will be good to watch them.”

Comcast customers could spend more or less than they currently pay, depending on what package they choose, Goodman said.

On Comcast’s website, Internet with a fast connection as well as HBO and some TV stations would cost $44.95. But the offer is only good for 12 months; after that, the cost increases to $69.99 for another 12 months. After two years, the price jumps to $114.93. Other options are higher, according to Comcast’s website.

An introductory offer for an Internet connection that is about the same speed as the one Charter offers is $29.99 from Comcast.  However, after the introductory period, the Internet cost from Comcast is $58.95 to $66.95.

Goodman said the pricing structure for this area hasn’t been worked out yet, but he said the Pac-12 Network would be available on channel 720.

Comcast has a $9.95-a-month Internet service for families with children in the free and reduced lunch programs at school, and Goodman said it will be offered in this area.

On the other end of the spectrum, Comcast will offer a cloud-based entertainment box that allows recording four channels while simultaneously watching a fifth channel. “And, we’re looking to expand this offering further,” Goodman said.

Another upgrade would be a home security system that allows users to view on their TV sets who is ringing at the front door.

Charter offers Internet download speeds of about 30 megabits per second. Goodman said 30 megabits will be on the low end of Comcast’s Internet speed in the valley, reaching up to 100 megabits per second and higher for business customers.

“We’re looking at upgrading the systems to provide even faster Internet,” he said.

Medford resident Jim Wickre said he dropped Charter two years ago because it couldn’t get the Pac-12.

“I had Charter since I moved to Medford in the 1970s before it was even owned by Charter,” he said. “When they refused to have the Pac-12, I had to go to a sports bar to watch the game.”

He uses Dish Network for TV but still uses Charter for Internet and phone. He said the signal quality for Dish Network is perfect, even when it’s raining or snowing.

Wickre said he’s a big college football fan and Dish Network lists every game that is on, provides stats and color-codes each game to let you know if it’s exciting or a dud.

He said he’s not sure whether he would make the switch to Comcast if it did feature the Pac-12.

“As far as TV goes, if somebody buys them out, I will take a look at it,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell illustration