Boucher Backs Comcast-NBCU Deal

House Communications Subcommittee chair recommends online access conditions, but says general 'net openness provision should not be one of them
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In letters to the FCC and the Justice Department, House
Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has asked both to
approve the Comcast/NBCU $30 billion joint venture, but he also recommends
applying conditions on access to video programming online.

"After reviewing the matter, I urge the FCC [and the
"Department"] to approve the Comcast-NBC Universal combination,"
Boucher wrote, according to copies of the letter supplied by his office.

Then he asked them both to "consider and address" the
following proposed conditions to "mitigate the potential for harm to
competition and consumers."

His proposals include 1) preventing any shows now delivered over
the NBC broadcast network from migrating to the TV Everywhere platform, 2)
prohibiting exclusive online programming deals for programming in which the
companies have an attributable interest; 3) prohibiting blocking access
to competitors video programming; 4) a prohibition on migration of NBC
broadcast sports to cable-exclusive play (Boucher recognizes that would
essentially be incorporating an agreement Comcast has already made with NBC
affiliates to that effect; 5) a requirement that programming in which the
companies have a financial interest must be able to be played on any
Internet-enabled device so long as it does not compromise the look, function,
or copyright protection of the service.

Boucher suggested that a network neutrality condition should not
be applied. He pointed to ongoing discussions about a potential legislative
fix, and said that if those are successful the Congress would be working on a
bill to apply a "uniform set" of openness principles.

Those would have universal application, he said, but in the
meantime, "it would be highly inappropriate to impose network openness
requirements on a single broadband provider," he said, "Accordingly,
I urge that the Department not impose any conditions on its approval of the
Comcast-NBCU combination regarding network openness.

Comcast and NBCU execs have said
they are open to discussing other conditions, but feel that they have already
offered up a full plate of them regarding everything from diversity
and retrans to access to independent programming.

Boucher urged both the FCC and Justice to approve the deal by Dec. 1, which would be approximately a year since the deal was announced.

The FCC's own informal shot clock on vetting the merger would currently expire a few days before that.

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