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Thursday, June 28, 2012
Comcast to Pay $800,000 As Part Of Settlement With FCC

Comcast has reached a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission under which it will pay the U.S. government $800,000 and offer a broadband Internet access option to customers who don't subscribe to the cable company's video cable services.

The Federal Communications Commission resolved its investigation of Comcast's compliance with certain broadband-related merger conditions imposed by FCC's order approving the Comcast-NBCU transaction.

The U.S. cable TV company bought a controlling interest in NBCUniversal after the FCC and the Justice Department approved the deal with conditions following a yearlong review.

FCC required Comcast to offer "a reasonably priced broadband option to consumers who do not receive their cable service from the company." In addition, Comcast will pay an $800,000 voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury as part of the settlement.

The FCC also required Comcast to continue to offer standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth to its 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.

Under the terms of the aggreement, Comcast must continue to offer its "Performance Starter" service until at least February 21, 2015. In addition, the agreement imposes a detailed compliance plan requiring Comcast to undertake numerous actions, including the following 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.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the settlement will benefit consumers, foster competition among online video and satellite providers, and ensure that stand-alone broadband is available in Comcast's service areas.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said that the company has incorporated the commitments and conditions placed upon it in connection with the NBCUniversal acquisition, including the commitment to offer stand-alone broadband Internet.

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