Comcast settles FCC probe on web access

Will pay $800,000 and extend Internet-only option one more year

Comcast has settled an FCC investigation into its compliance with conditions of its 2011 merger with NBCUniversal, voluntarily agreeing to pay $800,000 and to extend a “reasonably priced option” for consumers who only want Internet service.

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau had been probing whether Comcast had been adequately marketing its standalone Internet service, vs. pitching consumers packages in which broadband is offered as a package along with cable TV service.

As part of the conditions place on the merger with NBCU, Comcast in 2011 agreed to offer standalone Internet service at a download speed of at least 6 mbps, and at a price no greater than $49.95 per month, for three years. The condition also required that Comcast “visibly offer and actively market” the service.

Comcast’s settlement — made via a consent decree with the FCC — extends the cabler’s requirements for standalone Internet service another year, until at least Feb. 21, 2015. The consent decree also requires that Comcast take other actions, like training customer service reps and conducting an ad campaign for the standalone option.

The FCC said the $800,000 contribution would be made the U.S. Treasury.

Bloomberg has a complaint pending before the FCC, charging that Comcast has not complied with another condition of the merger by refusing to “neighborhood” its Bloomberg channel along with other news and business channels. The FCC’s Media Bureau ruled largely in favor of Bloomberg last month, and Comcast said it is planning to appeal.