Charter Communications , the fourth largest-cable operator, filed for bankruptcy after becoming overwhelmed by a $24.2 billion debt load.

Charter negotiated a restructuring with bondholders that will reduce its debt by $8 billion. The move will enable it to cut interest payments and increase its cash.

Charter has been facing stiff competition from satellite TV operators and telephone line operators that provide video services. Its revenue increased 8 percent in 2008 while it reported a net loss of $2.45 billion.

The company, which made the filing in bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York, said that it plans to fund operations during the bankruptcy with cash it has on hand and cash from operating activities.

This will enable it to avoid the need for debtor-in-possession financing, which has become pricier and more difficult to negotiate because of tight credit markets. In court documents it said it has $13.1 billion in assets.

The company said that the plan is supported by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who will have the largest voting interest in the company at 35 percent. Allen controlled the company prior to the bankruptcy through his majority equity stake.

Charter said in February that it had come to an agreement with bondholders on a debt restructuring and that it planned to file for bankruptcy by the beginning of April.

It said that the members of the bondholder committee will invest more than $3 billion in the company including $2 billion in equity, $1.2 billion through the roll-over of pre-petition debt and $267 million in new debt.

Charter said that 73 percent of the holders of its 11 percent senior secured notes due 2015 of CCH I and 52 percent of the holders of the 10.25 percent senior notes due 2010 and 2013 of CCH II supported the plan.

Charter said that its chief restructuring officer is Gregory Doody, who led energy company Calpine Corp. out of its bankruptcy and restructuring.

Charter said that it is being advised by Kirkland & Ellis, Lazard and AlixPartners. The bondholders are being advised by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin Capital and UBS Securities.

(Additional reporting by Tom Hals; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)