News

Roberts to FCC Chief: No Quick Retrans Fixes

1/16/2010 2:00 AM Eastern

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski and Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts met in Las Vegas Jan. 7 to discuss a number of issues.

The venue was the Consumer Electronics Show, where Genachowski was speaking.

During the meeting, according to an ex parte filing with the commission, they talked about retransmission consent, TV set-tops, network neutrality and the broadband plan, but made no mention of what would have arguably been the elephant in the room: the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, which Comcast is planning to put in front of the FCC by the end of this month. At least a couple of industry observers who also read the ex parte pointed out that since the merger is not a docketed proceeding, neither side would have had to identify it in the ex parte, but sources at both Comcast and the FCC say the subject did not come up.

On set-tops, Roberts echoed the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s call for the FCC to launch a wide-ranging notice of inquiry more comprehensive than the requests for comment on the subject issued as part of the broadband plan. The FCC is widely expected to ask for more comment (specifically reply comments) on set-tops as part of that request, but the cable industry wants a larger examination of the issue that includes a hard look at the result of the FCC’s ban on integrated set-tops, which the commission has conceded has not spurred a retail market in the devices.

The discussions of network neutrality and the broadband plan were said to be reiterations of prior positions by Comcast.

The meeting came the day before FCC and Comcast lawyers squared off in Washington on the issue of network management, specifically the FCC’s finding that the MSO violated the agency’s Internet-openness principles by blocking or impeding peer-to-peer traffic. Comcast challenged that decision, saying the FCC was not empowered to adjudicated based on principles rather than laws.