Charter CEO Touts Pro-Industry Cable Deregulation Under Trump

Tom Rutledge - backstage at The New York Times DealBook - Getty-H 2017
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"Having a more stable regulatory environment can't be anything but good," Tom Rutledge told an investors conference.

A more hands-off regulatory environment for cable operators under a Donald Trump administration should open the way for more investment by Charter Communications, according to Tom Rutledge, company chairman, president and CEO.

The exec on Monday told an investors conference he felt constrained around net neutrality rules under the former Obama administration. "Having the Title 2 regime hanging over us was an impediment. Operating in an environment where the rules could change on you has more risk," Rutledge told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference during a session that was webcast.

"To de-risk future investment makes you feel better about investing. I assume when I feel better, I'm more aggressive. ... Having a more stable regulatory environment can't be anything but good," he added. Rutledge also talked about Charter recently starting 5G networking trials to power next-generation digital products like virtual reality and self-driving cars.

That meant being able to go beyond higher video-delivery speeds in the home and office to delivering 5G products in the outside world. "We have 700,000 miles of infrastructure out in the streets and byways in front of 50 million homes and businesses," said the exec.

How would an evolving 5G mobile platform look? "It's hard to imagine driving around with virtual reality devices on," Rutledge said.

That's right — using smart-home technology to allow consumers to wear a VR headset while in the driver's seat of a self-driving car. "But I don't think that's the first application," he added quickly.

Touting Charter's 5G ambitions is noteworthy because super-fast high-speed broadband offerings are in part driving M&A chatter about phone giant Verizon possibly bidding for Charter to challenge rival AT&T and its proposed acquisition of Time Warner.

Rutledge wasn't talking about any possible M&A combinations on Monday, but he did talk about the cable giant eventually rolling out a broadband service that transmitted data at up to 10 Gbps, up and downstream. Said the exec: "I think, competitively speaking, we have the best infrastructure today."