FCC

FCC Extends Comcast’s Broadband Mandate

7/09/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Comcast will have to offer price-capped
standalone broadband service for a
year longer than it originally planned, after
the MSO agreed to disagree with the Federal
Communications Commission over how the
service was rolled out and marketed.

Comcast agreed to pay $800,000 and extend
its agreement to offer reasonably priced
standalone broadband to consumers who do
not also take cable service from the company
— a condition of its deal to acquire control
of programming giant NBCUniversal
— to resolve a complaint to the FCC, the
second deal-related redress the agency has
sought.

The agreement, in the form of a consent
decree adopted by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, resolves
an investigation into complaints that Comcast
was not “adequately marketing” the standalone product.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the agreement
meant that “compliance with commission orders is not
optional,” but added that he was pleased the two parties
were able to come to a meeting of the minds.

Under conditions of the NBCU merger, Comcast was required
to offer standalone broadband on equivalent
terms as bundled broadband service, at speeds
of at least 6 Megabits per second, for no more than
$49.95 a month for a period of three years.

Comcast was also prohibited from raising
broadband prices for two years and was required
to “visibly offer and actively market” the
availability of the service. According to the FCC
release, it was apparently just the “actively market”
part that was at issue in the complaint.

Under the terms of the merger consent decree,
Comcast has agreed to offer its “Performance
Starter” broadband service until at least
Feb. 21, 2015, one year beyond the current deal
requirement.

A Comcast spokesperson confirmed that the company
had complied with the price and price cap and speed
portions of the agreement. Comcast saw the marketing
issue as a disagreement over how the service was rolled
out that had been resolved.

“Comcast has incorporated the extensive commitments
and conditions from the NBCUniversal transaction
into the DNA of our business practices, including the
commitment to offer standalone broadband Internet,”
the company said in a statement. “We rolled this product
out in just one month, the fastest Comcast has ever
deployed a brand-new service simultaneously throughout
its footprint.

“As is often the case with services associated with government
orders, the FCC had questions on how the service
might have been rolled out in a different or even
better way. We are pleased that Comcast and the FCC
were able to address such issues cooperatively and constructively
in a consensual manner.”

In addition to the payment and extension, Comcast has
agreed to follow a compliance regime that includes training,
equal access to Web pages, and a “major” promotional
campaign.

The FCC’s Media Bureau last month ruled that Comcast
had not sufficiently complied with the “networkneighborhooding”
condition in the NBCU deal. That
came in a response to a complaint by Bloomberg Television,
which claimed Comcast had left it outside of a tier
of similar news stations, including NBCU-owned competitor
CNBC.

Comcast has challenged that decision.

September
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