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FCC oks Comcast’s NBC Universal deal, with net neutrality-style conditions

Better arbitration process for programming disputes addresses increasingly frequent content flare-ups

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the Comcast-NBC Universal merger with conditions to be imposed by federal regulators, as well as several conditions Comcast itself already proposed.

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The most notable condition for Comcast’s telco TV competitors is the FCC’s order for an accelerated arbitration process for disputes between the cable TV programming giant and competitors seeking access to its content.

Also, the FCC moved to ensure that Comcast, which will become a 30 percent stake-holder in Hulu through NBCU, will make online video programming available on a fair market value basis to all online video sites. Comcast also must offer standalone broadband Internet service that does not require subscribers to also buy Comcast cable TV service.

Those conditions and several others, combined with commitments Comcast already has made, such as a plan to offer a $10 broadband package, brought merger approval from the FCC within the January timeframe that Comcast had been publicly anticipating in recent months.

Many observers have wondered whether the federal approval could be delayed after Level 3 Communications recently accused Comcast of breaching Net Neutrality principles, but the FCC had signaled in recent days that the merger’s approval was near.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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