MAP Asks FCC to Reconsider Comcast/NBCU Comment Extension Decision

Commission denied group's 45-day extension request
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Media Access Project (MAP) Friday (April 16) asked the
FCC to reconsider its decision denying MAP's request for a 45-day
extension on the comment period for the Comcast/NBCU merger, saying the court
decision in the Comcast/BitTorrent case is one more reason to give interested
parties more time to weigh in.

MAP, with letters of support from Free Press, Consumer
Federation of America, the American Cable Association, Consumer's Union and
other critics of the $30 billion joint venture, had sought the extension before
the BitTorrent decision, citing a number of comment deadlines coming due in the
same time frame, and the importance of addressing all relevant issues in the
comments given the FCC's express advice to do so. But the commission denied the
request. The FCC pointed out that it had already established a 90-day window
for comments and pleadings "two or three times" the period for
previous mergers.

"The Commission has an obligation to review the
proposed transaction as expeditiously as possible," the FCC wrote in
denying the request. "It is often the case that potential petitioners or
commenters such as MAP have interests in multiple commission proceedings, and
the commission's schedule cannot be dictated by the choices made by those
parties regarding the allocation of their time and resources."

But MAP says the schedule should be dictated by a pivotal
court decision that could affect how parties view the merger.

"This petition is based in part upon a changed
circumstance that occurred subsequent to the issuance of the order," said
MAP, which argues the BitTorrent decision could implicate everything from net
neutrality to the "terrestrial loophole" to the FCC's ability to
modify cable program access and carriage regulations.

"The D.C. Circuit's Comcast decision has a significant
impact on MAP and other parties seeking to challenge the proposed transaction
and, especially, those parties considering what conditions might permit them to
support conditional grant of the applications. Depending on the outcome of the
legal analysis of the Comcast decision, opposing parties may determine that
they are unable to support conditional grant of the applications and/or that
additional merger-specific conditions may be required."

On a separate track, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has
introduced a bill, HR 5020, that would extend the comment period 45 days. She
sent a letter to the FCC earlier in the week asking it to extend the deadline,
but apparently is hedging her bets. The bill had 56 co-sponsors by press time
according to Free Press.

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