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Consumer groups: Examine Comcast/AOL fine print - Broadcasting & Cable

Consumer groups: Examine Comcast/AOL fine print

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With an expected Federal Communications Commission approval of Comcast Corp.'s acquisition of AT&T Broadband drawing near, consumer advocacy
groups are raising a stink about the FCC's heretofore refusal to examine details
of Comcast's broadband-carriage agreement with AOL Time Warner Inc.

Since September, Media Access Project and other groups, along with Internet-service provider
EarthLink Inc., have been asking the FCC to review confidential details of Comcast's
contract to carry AOL on its high-speed Internet platform. The critics of the
contract, who pledge to keep details confidential, speculated that the terms will
limit competing ISPs' access to Comcast's high-speed network and perhaps pose
enough harm to competition to tip regulators' opinion against the deal, which
would leave Comcast/AT&T Broadband and AOL Time Warner's Time Warner Cable as the first and second largest
MSOs in the country.

Existence of the contract was revealed in an August filing outlining
AT&T Corp.'s plan to divest or put into a trust its minority interest in Time
Warner's cable subsidiary. The carriage contract itself, however, was not
included in the August filing. MAP officials complained that the FCC should demand
to examine the contract as part of the Comcast/AT&T Broadband merger review.

"Refusal even to look at a document that is so clearly related to the future
of the Internet lends an unfortunate appearance that the commission is more
interested in form than substance," the consumer groups said Tuesday in a reply to
the cable companies' early objection to turning over the
contract.

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