Updated: FCC approves Comcast-NBC deal

Posted by at 10:27 am on January 18, 2011

Well it happened sooner than what we said below. Here are the details of the deal.

The FCC on Tuesday approved (PDF) the long delayed Comcast-NBC merger but with conditions. It will require that the new company provide its video to Internet and traditional sources on “non-discriminatory” terms if that content is already available to its own online users and to others. Comcast-NBC would be barred from trying to artificially inflate online prices and would have to give Internet rights at prices that are competitive with conventional TV.

More Internet terms would prevent it from making its content difficult to access outside of its network or to interfere with competitive content getting to its network, such as through blocking or throttling. Comcast would also be watched to make sure it didn’t try to raise prices on cable Internet access or lower bandwidth caps to force customers into cable TV subscriptions. The anti-rate hike measure was likely instituted after Time Warner tried to curb Internet use through caps so low that an average subscriber would have run out of bandwidth after four 720p movies.

A specific clause prevents the newly unified company from withholding video from Hulu.

Outside of online video, the merged media giant will have to live up to already set promises to expand its broadband to 400,000 extra homes, offer an extra 1,000 hours of news TV, add more on-demand programming for children, guarantee public access television and promise not to limit the distribution of programming from other channels depending on whether or not they’re affiliated.

All of the terms will last for seven years regardless of whether or not net neutrality rules are upheld.

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The FCC should approve the Comcast-NBC merger with net neutrality conditions by the end of the month, per the Washington Post and the Wrap. The merger will reportedly be submitted this week with approval any time between now and January 28. The Wrap in obtaining the date noted an FCC meeting was on January 25 but that it could vote early this week, implying a decision as soon as Tuesday.

Many of the terms leaked out in the past would remain in place. Comcast-NBC would have to follow net neutrality rules preventing it from discriminating against rival traffic for at least seven years, regardless of whether or not wider neutrality rules were upheld. A Washington Post contact reiterated that the combined entity would likely have to share its online video with sites like YouTube or with hardware such as the Google TV and the Roku .

Other terms would include an anti-retaliatory clause to prevent Comcast from punishing companies for not using its services as well as an already known agreement to produce an extra 1,000 hours of news content on NBC and Telemundo.

Comcast and NBC have been pushing for conditions as loose as possible but have also been willing to make concessions to get the long delayed merger approved.

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