Yet another condition requires Comcast to continue offering an affordable, standalone broadband option for customers who want internet access but not TV service.
This condition, too, is intended help drive the growth of online video by allowing consumers to cancel their cable subscriptions without losing their internet connections.
The FCC and the Justice Department are also requiring Comcast to relinquish its management rights in Hulu to ensure that it cannot interfere with the development of competing online services. Comcast will still be required to make NBC content available to Hulu, however.
Another key condition being imposed by both agencies bars Comcast from discriminating against internet video traveling over its broadband network. Although the FCC recently adopted industry-wide “net neutrality” rules barring broadband providers from interfering with Internet traffic on their systems, those regulations are likely to be challenged in court. The condition would ensure that Comcast, which has come under fire for discriminating against internet traffic in the past, would still have to abide by the rules.
Other FCC conditions require Comcast to increase local news coverage, expand children’s programming and programming for Spanish-speaking viewers, add 10 new independent channels, and provide a subsidized broadband service for low-income households. The FCC is also prohibiting Comcast from giving its own channels preferential placement in its cable system line-ups.
At least one public-interest watchdog was pleased with the government’s online video conditions. Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, said they could help pave the way for Internet distributors to break the cable industry’s “stanglehold” over the video market.
Some others weren’t so sure.
“This will ultimately mean higher cable and Internet bills, fewer independent voices in the media, and less freedom of choice for all American consumers,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said in a statement.
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