Friday, January 14, 2011

Comcast-NBC merger expected to have net neutrality conditions

Comcast-NBC merger expected to have net neutrality conditions

Federal regulators aren't expected to decide this week on whether to approve a merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, as they weigh placing conditions on Internet access, as well as other requirements, according to sources familiar with the reviews.
The two Democratic commissioners are pushing to ensure the merged broadband and media company preserves local media and that Comcast can't use its market power to make it harder for content and media companies to reach consumers.
The merger has been blessed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, as long as the companies agree to certain conditions, including some on online video. The FCC would not give details, but analysts said they expect Comcast to agree to provide NBC shows as long as other networks are providing their content to online video providers such as Apple TV and Netflix.
According to sources familiar with the FCC review, Comcast and NBC are expected to agree to net neutrality rules for a limited number of years. Those rules would be upheld even if the FCC's recently passed Internet access rules are overturned by courts.
Comcast, meanwhile, has been seeking speedy completion of its year-long review by the FCC and the Justice Department. Sources said Justice has finished its review and is waiting for the FCC to vote on Genachowski's order.
In a blog earlier this week, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said the merger appeared near a vote. He noted that the company's commitment to provide $9.99 broadband access to low-income communities has been hailed by the tech community. The firm has received support from filmmaker Ed Burns and some minority groups and lawmakers.
But it has also faced a flurry of opposition. Internet service provider Earthlink has petitioned for conditions that force Comcast to unbundle its broadband access so companies like it can provide Internet access to Comcast customers. Voxel, a company that hosts traffic for Web sites such as The Observer, said Comcast doesn't play fair in business-to-business relationships. Specifically, it said Comcast purposefully keeps its pipes congested for certain content delivery networks such as Voxel and Tata Communications in order to charge them for better delivery of content.

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