If a majority of the panelists on the online portion of the FCC's Chicago forum on the Comcast/NBCU
deal are right, it is all about access to video content online.
One of those was the only FCC commissioner in attendance, Michael Copps.
"I cannot, I will not, accept half-hearted pledges of fairness from industry when the future of the Web is at stake. And
right now the assurances and conditions we have received on this Comcast/NBCU proposal don't pass the red-face test," he said. "How many times do we have to experience the fall-out when critical decisions are entrusted only to those in industry without credible public policy oversight?"
Copps likened the deregulatory climate that allowed large media mergers to the one that allowed the BP oils spill and financial crisis, a point seconded by Markham Erickson, or the open Internet Coalition, who pitched strong conditions on the merger.
Joining him was former White House tech policy advisor Susan Crawford, who said that Comcast would be able to use its control over "addictive content" like NBCs' sports or CNBC business news channel to shield them from competition online, and "constrain" the nascent online video marketplace.
Ericksons, whose coalition includes Bloomberg, argued for forcing Comcast to divest CNBC.
Jeff Bloom, senior vice president and general counsel of Dish joined in the chorus of voices for online access conditions, saying that the company would have the incentive to discriminate against Dishs' competing online video offerings.
One key issue on whether Comcast would have the incentive to impede online competition or restrict access to NBC programming was whether online video was a substitution or complement. If it is the latter, then there is less incentive to restrict content. Nielsen vice chairman Susan Whiting said its data indicated the two were complimentary, and warned the FCC to be cautious about trying to regulate in the space.