Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, urged the FCC and the Department of Justice to approve the combination of Comcast and NBC Universal.
But there is a kind of carrot and stick to his approach.
In letters to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and Asst. Attorney General Christine Varney, who heads the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, he expressed concerns that the joint venture would have on the availability of web video, which has been a main concern among critics of the transaction.
He outlined a series of steps he said could “mitigate the potential for consumer harm.” Among them: Prohibiting NBC shows from going exclusively to TV Everywhere, the services cable providers are offering so subscribers can access premium content online.
Another suggested condition is a prohibition on the combined company from restricting the availablity of programming in which it has a stake to its own Internet platform, including the TV Everywhere service. He also recommended measures to prevent Comcast NBC U from entering into exclusive agreements that could prevent competitors from obtaining access to content that the combined company does not own. He also expressed concern that big sporting events like the Super Bowl, now available for free, would be migrated to pay platforms.
Boucher did stop short of demanding that Comcast agree to net neutrality, in which Internet providers would be forced to treat all websites equally in terms of the speed in which it is delivered to users. Congress is currently mulling industry-wide measures, he noted, and such rules should have “universal application to all broadband providers.”
He also urged approval by regulators by Dec. 1, the same frame hoped for by Comcast and NBC U.