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Comcast plans to sell Hudson-area cable system

Hudson and North Hudson cable TV subscribers will have a new company in the future if Comcast’s plans to take over Time Warner Cable come to fruition.

Last week, Martin Ludden, Comcast’s government affairs manager for the Twin Cities region, sent an email to Nate Skoog, manager of Hudson/North Hudson Community Access TV, informing him of the planned changes ahead.

“Your communities are served by one of the cable systems that Comcast is divesting along with other systems in the Midwest and South,” Ludden wrote. “These systems will be transferred to a new, independent, publicly-traded company serving approximately 2.5 million customers.”

According to reports in other newspapers, Comcast made a $45.2 billion bid for Time Warner Cable in February. Comcast is seeking to shrink its market share in order to win government approval for its merger with Time Warner, which is facing opposition.

Comcast and Charter Communications Inc. are proposing to form a new holding company to operate the yet-to-be-named cable company that would serve Hudson. Comcast-Time Warner shareholders would own about two-thirds of the company, and Charter shareholders, about one-third of it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that the name of the new company will be SpinCo. The newspaper said the company will own cable systems in Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

The Journal Sentinel said Charter, based in Stamford, Conn., would have a pathway to eventually owning all of SpinCo.

Comcast has said it will have less than 30 percent of the homes in the U.S. that subscribe to cable or satellite TV after the three-company deal closes.

“The new company will continue to provide top-quality video, broadband and voice services to its customers,” the Comcast representative said in his email to the local community access TV station (channel 15) called The River Channel.

Ludden said the new cable company will have a nine-member board of directors that will include six independent directors and three directors appointed by Charter Communications.

“Charter will provide operational support for the new company’s systems under a services agreement, although the company will have its own independent management team,” Ludden wrote.

The Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Justice Department have the power to block the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

A number of consumer advocates and politicians are calling for that to happen.

“This is a very complicated deal, but it looks like Comcast and Charter are trying to carve up the marketplace to their benefit, and it’s hard to see how any of this benefits consumers or competition,” Delara Derakhshani of Consumers Union was quoted as saying in the Journal Sentinel. Consumers Union is the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports magazine.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, also opposes the deal.

“The fact remains that Comcast will have unprecedented power in the television and broadband markets, and I’m very concerned that Comcast will use that power to squeeze competitors and consumers,” Franken was quoted as saying in the Journal Sentinel.

In his email to the Hudson cable access manager, Comcast’s Twin Cities government affairs manager said the Time Warner Cable acquisition and related transactions, including divesture of the Hudson cable system, “have many months to go before the deal is complete and the new arrangements are implemented.”

“During this period of change and growth, we will fully support our customers and employees, and continue to stay focused on operating these cable systems with excellence,” Ludden wrote.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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