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Comcast dinged with $800K fine

Thu, 06/28/2012 - 2:28pm
The Associated Press

Comcast has reached a settlement with federal regulators under which it will pay the 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 said Wednesday that Comcast agreed to take those and other steps as part of a consent decree to settle an investigation by the agency into the company's compliance with conditions of its NBCUniversal acquisition, which was completed in January 2011.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV company, bought a controlling interest in NBCUniversal after the FCC and the Justice Department approved the deal with conditions following a year-long review.

One of the conditions called on Comcast to offer standalone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth to customers who don't pay to get Comcast's cable TV service.

The agency launched an investigation after it received information suggesting that Comcast wasn't adequately marketing the service.

Comcast did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the consent decree, which resolves the investigation.

Under the terms of the settlement, Comcast agreed to provide a reasonably priced broadband Internet option through at least Feb. 21, 2015, to customers who don't get its cable TV service.

It also agreed to make a "voluntary contribution" to the U.S. Treasury of $800,000, the FCC said.

Among other conditions, the FCC required Comcast to conduct a major advertising campaign to promote the availability of the standalone Internet service next year.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the settlement will benefit consumers, foster competition among online video and satellite providers, and ensure that standalone 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 standalone broadband Internet.

"As is often the case with services associated with government orders, the FCC had questions on how the service might have been rolled out in a different or even better way," she said.

It's not the first time Comcast has faced a dispute over compliance with conditions from the NBCUniversal deal.

In May, an arm of the FCC determined that Bloomberg's 24-hour business news channel ought to be grouped together with other news channels in lineups provided by Comcast, which owns Bloomberg competitor CNBC. Comcast agreed to keep news channels together in "neighborhoods" as a condition of its takeover, but Comcast argued that Bloomberg's definition of a "neighborhood" was incorrect. Comcast is appealing the ruling.

Comcast shares ended regular trading Wednesday up 47 cents to $31.04. The stock added 11 cents to $31.15 in after-hours trading.

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