Under a consent decree reached with the FCC, Comcast agreed on Wednesday to pay $800,000 to settle an FCC probe into the cable giant’s compliance with certain conditions attached to its January 2011 merger with NBC Universal (NBCU). As part of its order approving Comcast’s acquisition of a 51% stake in NBCU, the FCC required Comcast, among other things, to offer stand-alone broadband Internet access at a minimum download speed of 6 Mbps to customers who do not wish to purchase Comcast’s cable television service. Comcast was further required to comply with that condition for a three-year period and to charge a monthly rate of no more than $49.95 for its stand-alone broadband service. Although Comcast has rolled out a stand-alone broadband service (known as “Performance Starter”) that complies with the FCC’s condition, the FCC launched an investigation into Comcast’s compliance after receiving a tip that the company’s service representatives were failing to inform consumers consistently about the Performance Starter option. Through the consent decree, in which Comcast admits no wrongdoing, Comcast will voluntarily submit an $800,000 payment to the U.S. Treasury to terminate the FCC probe and will aggressively promote the Performance Starter service in a major ad campaign next year. Comcast also pledged to provide more extensive training to its customer service representatives on the standalone broadband offering and to dedicate a special page on the Comcast website to that service. In an unprecedented move, the FCC also extended the standalone broadband condition for an additional year, through February 2015. Declaring, “we are proud of our standalone broadband offering of ‘Performance Starter,’” a Comcast spokeswoman explained: “the FCC had questions on how the service might have been rolled out in a different or even better way.” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, meanwhile, proclaimed that “the remedies announced today will benefit consumers and foster competition, including from online video and satellite providers, by ensuring that standalone broadband is truly available in Comcast’s service areas.”
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Comcast to pay $800,000 to settle FCC probe on NBCU conditions
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