Small Ops Back AT&T-Comcast Merger


Small cable operators late Tuesday tossed their support behind AT&T
Broadband's merger with Comcast Corp. after the big companies evidently made a
number of concessions on programming issues.

Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, sent a letter to the
Federal Communications Commission saying that small operators easily reached
agreement with AT&T Broadband and Comcast on four critical matters.

'This reflects well on the character and leadership of the applicants, and we
look forward to seeing continuing examples of such character and leadership
after completion of the merger,' Polka's letter said.

The ACA represents more than 900 cable operators serving 7.5 million

According to the ACA, AT&T Broadband and Comcast promised to provide
small operators with digital Headend in the Sky programming on fair terms, in
addition to access to affiliated programming distributed terrestrially or via

The trade group also indicated that AT&T Broadband and Comcast would not
allow exclusive contracts to interfere with small-operator access to various
programming services.

A Comcast source said the points raised in Polka's letter were all addressed
in separate FCC comments filed Tuesday by AT&T Broadband and Comcast.

In other comments, EarthLink Inc. -- an Internet-service provider with 4.9
million subscribers -- urged the FCC to require AT&T Broadband and Comcast
to offer consumer access to multiple ISPs and to adopt the access conditions
imposed by the Federal Trade Commission on AOL Time Warner Inc. in December