(GANNETT MICHIGAN) - Local Comcast Corp. cable customers soon may find themselves dealing with a new company.
The accounts of about 2.5 million Comcast subscribers nationwide, including all in Michigan, would be handled by a new publicly tradedcompany the Philadelphia-based cable and Internet giant plans to create as part of a broad customer swap deal with Charter Communications Inc.
The potential deal, announced Monday, is aimed to help Comcast gain regulatory approval for its pending merger with New York's Time Warner Cable Inc.
The proposed company would pick up all Comcast accounts in Michigan, including the Comcast-heavy areas of metro Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Lansing. Existing Charter subscribers in Michigan would keep their service.
Comcast is a large player in the Lansing market. It offers cable, Internet and landline telephone service in the cities of Lansing and East Lansing, as well as several adjacent townships, including Meridian, Delhi and Delta. It competes with the likes of AT&T Inc.'s Uverse service and satellite providers Dish Network Corp. and DirecTV.
Charter's mid-Michigan service is limited to parts of Clinton County. Comcast officials declined to say how many customers they have in mid-Michigan.
If the deal happens, Charter would own 33 percent ownership of the proposed Comcast spinoff company and would manage customer accounts. The deal would take effect after the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger closes. That $45.2 billion deal announced in February still needs approval from the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission.
Deborah Guthrie, communications directorfor Meridian Township, said the township now is reviewing the language in its 9-year-old franchise agreement with Comcast because of Monday's announcement. The township had taken early steps toward possibly renewing the agreement in 2015.
"What we're doing in Meridian Township is taking a look at our language and what the franchise agreement says in regards to Comcast and another company managing that system," Guthrie said. "I'm concerned about franchise fees and customer services."
Guthrie said she also is concerned the deal may reclassify the company's video service customers, which would reduce franchise fees for the township. The township received about $536,000 in franchise fees from Comcast in 2013.
Lansing and East Lansing city officials could not be reached for comment.
Charter Spokesman Alex Dudley said current Comcast customers will receive multiple notifications if the proposed deal happens and before the new company takes over. Each subscriber's transition to the new company would happen automatically.
Charter's spokesman said it's too early to know whether the deal would affect subscriber services or pricing rates for current Comcast customers.
The swap deal would also involve Charter getting 1.6 million Comcast subscribers and Comcast getting 1.6 million Charter subscribers. In addition, Charter would get 1.4 million Time Warner Cable customers.
Charter would become the second largest cable operator in the country if the deal goes through and its customer base would grow to about 5.7 million to 4.4 million. The company declined to say how many Michigan subscribers it currently has.