Comcast Has Answers for FCC

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Comcast has met the FCC's Oct. 18 deadline for additional information on the company in response to an Oct. 4 request, part of its ongoing vetting of the proposed Comcast/NBCU joint venture.

Most of the answers were concerned with data that was not made public, including distribution agreements, rates and other proprietary information.

Among the public answers: its plans for broadband. Comcast said it deployed the service in response to population growth and new demand, for example, and that included Wi-Fi and its HighSpeed2Go mobile broadband service (Comcast said the latter would be deployed in 21 markets by year-end, for example). The FCC wanted to know how Comcast decides what networks to carry.

The answer seemed fairly self-evident. The company said it looks at how the network would fit in the overall channel lineup; how it can help Comcast draw and retain subs; the price and terms; the network's management track record; and, finally, "bandwidth constraints." Plus, it said, a net is sometimes part of a larger deal for co-owned nets, so the overall value of the deal comes into play in those cases.

And perhaps the height of self-evident: "As a general rule, when negotiating with programmers, Comcast Cable seeks to obtain the lowest possible wholesale cost that it must eventually pass on to its customers."

The company pointed out that, when deciding whether to add a channel, a relevant factor would be whether it was in a genre already well represented. But that by the same token, a network in a genre not already well-represented, like say a board game network, might not have a sufficient potential fan base, while a network in a genre with several nets already in the lineup might be attractive because it had the value-added of compelling programming.

Comcast used the example of the Big Ten Network, which is carried on a highly penetrated tier in the conference footprint states, and a sports tier (that costs extra) outside of them.

Comcast also outlined the operations of its managed services including video delivery. How the FCC will treat managed services in its network neutrality rulemaking is now one of the issues in that debate.

The company said that programmers who purchase the service have "contractual access to their programming" and how the channels will be arranged in their channel lineups.

Comcast also pointed out that it does not demand exclusivity and programmers are free to contract with other transport providers.

NBCU's answers were also due by the end of the day Monday. Both were second requests for info from the FCC.

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