Copps Not Persuaded By Comcast/NBCU Pledges

Access to video content online is key, say panelists at FCC's Chicago forum
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If a
majority of the panelists on the online portion of the FCC's Chicago forum on
the Comcast/NBCU deal are right, it is all about access to video content
online.

One of
those was the only FCC commissioner in attendance, Michael Copps. "I
cannot, I will not, accept half-hearted pledges of fairness from industry when
the future of the Web is at stake. And right now the assurances and conditions
we have received on this Comcast/NBCU proposal don't pass the red-face
test," he said. "How many times do we have to experience the fall-out
when critical decisions are entrusted only to those in industry without
credible public policy oversight?"

Copps
likened the deregulatory climate that allowed large media mergers to the one
that allowed the BP oils spill and financial crisis, a point seconded by
Markham Erickson of the Open Internet Coalition,
who pitched strong conditions on the merger.

Joining
him was former White House technology policy advisor Susan Crawford, who said that
Comcast would be able to use its control over "addictive content"
like NBC's sports or CNBC business news channel to shield them from competition
online, and "constrain" the nascent online video marketplace.

Erickson,
whose coalition includes Bloomberg, argued for forcing Comcast to divest CNBC.

Jeff
Bloom, senior VP and general counsel of DISH joined in the chorus of voices for
online access conditions, saying that the company would have the incentive to
discriminate against DISH's competing online video offerings.

One key
issue on whether Comcast would have the incentive to impede online competition
or restrict access to NBC programming was whether online video was a
substitution or complement. If it is the latter, then there is less incentive
to restrict content. Nielsen Vice Chairman Susan Whiting said its data
indicated the two were complimentary, and warned the FCC to be cautious about
trying to regulate in the space.

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