FCC and Comcast agree to decree


Comcast and NBCUCompliance with broadband components of the conditions placed on the merger between Comcast and NBCU were in question, and rather than fight it out, the FCC and Comcast have entered into a consent decree that will add an extension to the broadband item and will make the US Treasury richer, courtesy of Comcast.

The amount of the Treasury contribution is not insignificant – we’re talking $800K.

FCC said, “Among other conditions in the Comcast-NBCU Order, the Commission required Comcast to continue to offer standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth to customers who do not subscribe to Comcast’s video cable services.  Specifically, the Commission required Comcast to offer standalone broadband services on terms equivalent to packages that bundle broadband and video cable service.  Comcast was ordered to offer a broadband service with a download speed of at least 6 mbps at a price no greater than $49.95 for three years.  The Commission also prohibited Comcast from raising prices on the required broadband service for two years.  Finally, Comcast had to ‘visibly offer and actively market’ standalone broadband Internet access service to highlight the availability of this special service and other standalone broadband services.

At question was whether Comcast was adequately marketing the low-cost broadband option.
Another facet of the settlement is tacking on another year to the low-cost broadband program.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Today’s action demonstrates that compliance with Commission orders is not optional.  The remedies announced today will benefit consumers and foster competition, including from online video and satellite providers, by ensuring that standalone broadband is truly available in Comcast’s service areas.  I am pleased we were able to resolve this issue.”

FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said, “This Consent Decree is a huge win for consumers.  It reinforces and extends the terms of the Commission’s merger order to ensure that consumers have reasonably priced standalone broadband Internet options, as the Commission originally intended. The unprecedented merger condition extension, significant voluntary contribution, and robust compliance plan send a clear message to the American public and the communications industry that the FCC will vigorously enforce its merger conditions, to the ultimate benefit of consumers.”

Other components of the Decree include:

* training its customer service representatives and retail sales personnel to reinforce their awareness and familiarity with the Performance Starter service;

* ensuring that new and existing Comcast customers have equal access to a web page devoted exclusively to describing and permitting online purchase of all retail standalone broadband Internet service options;

* listing the Performance Starter service tier on product lists issued to Comcast customers;

* conducting a major advertising promotion of Comcast’s standalone retail broadband Internet access service offerings in 2013; and

* continuing to offer the Performance Starter service at its owned and operated retail locations and offering its third-party retail agents and independent dealers the opportunity to sell the Performance Starter broadband service.