FCC Seeks Data from AT&T, Comcast


Federal regulators are demanding more information on a range of business
topics from AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp., the two MSOs seeking approval
to merge and create the largest cable company ever.

The Federal Communications Commission sent the two firms a letter June 11
asking dozen of questions on such issues as programming contracts, Internet
access, local phone service and service charges. The companies need to reply by
July 2.

The FCC letter asked several questions about Headend in the Sky, the
digital-programming platform owned by AT&T Corp., and its availability to
competing and noncompeting video-programming distributors.

The American Cable Association, the small-MSO trade group that supports the
merger, raised the HITS-availability issue in comments filed with the

The FCC also asked for an index of all terrestrially delivered programming
that would be covered by program-access rules if delivered via satellite and a
list of all exclusive programming contracts, including their length and
geographic area.

AT&T Broadband and Comcast announced their merger last December. The new
firm would serve about 22 million wholly owned subscribers. Both the FCC and the
Department of Justice are reviewing the merger.

In the letter, the commission asked the companies to furnish details about
their plans to work with unaffiliated Internet-service providers and to discuss
the extent to which those ISPs may offer various applications and technologies,
including video streaming, to subscribers.

The seven-page FCC letter also asked for additional support for their
statement that the merger 'will have strong incentives to reduce prices.'

The agency asked, 'Did AT&T lower rates and hold
down rate increases for any services after its merger with MediaOne [Group

AT&T spokesman Jim McGann called the FCC letter 'a standard request.'

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company would met the FCC's July 2 deadline.
'We've received the FCC's letter and plan to provide the requested information
within the Commission's time frame,' she said.