A CableLabs official confirmed Thursday that Charter Communications Inc. notified the R&D consortium on April 4 that the MSO could withdraw its membership in three years. CED sister publication Multichannel News reported the development earlier this morning on its Web site and in its subscription-based daily, Multichannel News Day.

If Charter were to pull its CableLabs membership, it wouldn't be an unprecedented event. MSOs such as Cablevision Systems Corp., considered by some a lone wolf in many of its business and technology approaches, withdrew its membership years ago.

CableLabs Senior Vice President of Communications Mike Schwartz also confirmed that U.S.-based CableLabs members pay CableLabs monthly dues of 2 cents per subscriber, a fee that has not changed since CableLabs' 1988 inception.

CableLabs members outside the U.S. pay a lower fee — 1 cent per subscriber per month, he said.

Charter serves approximately 7 million cable subscribers, putting its monthly nut with CableLabs at about $140,000.

Just because Charter gave fair warning in a letter, doesn't mean the company will pull out of CableLabs, Schwartz said, noting that other MSOs have given similar notices, but ended up renewing their memberships.

Plus, Charter continues to be involved in the organization's activities, Schwartz said, adding that MSO President and CEO Carl Vogel participated in a CableLabs executive session in New York on April 30.

According to Multichannel News, Charter spokesman Dave Anderson downplayed the development, noting: "It's smart in today's business environment to leave your options open."

Charter officials could not be reached for further comment by CED Broadband Direct's Thursday deadline.

Louisville, Colo.-based CableLabs spearheads industry specification initiatives, including projects such as DOCSIS, OpenCable, PacketCable, CableHome and Go2Broadband, among others.