When federal regulators approved Comcast Corp.’s takeover of a 51 percent stake in NBCUniversal last year, they imposed various conditions on the nation’s largest cable TV provider, including those that would protect the burgeoning Internet video marketplace and promote the spread of broadband Internet access.
One of the conditions called on Comcast to offer stand-alone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth to customers who don’t pay to get Comcast’s cable TV service. The Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation after it received information suggesting that Comcast wasn’t adequately marketing the service.
On Wednesday, the FCC said Comcast has agreed to pay the government $800,000 and offer a broadband Internet access option to customers who don’t subscribe to the cable company’s video cable services. It’s part of a deal to settle the investigation. Comcast didn’t admit any wrongdoing.
Among the conditions imposed by regulators in approving the takeover last year, Comcast must:
— Submit to an arbitration process to resolve disputes with traditional cable competitors and online video providers that want to buy its programming.
— Give up its voting rights in online video provider Hulu, although it is allowed to keep its minority equity stake above 25 percent. That’s so Comcast does not hinder Hulu from competing with Comcast’s online video service, Xfinity. It must also continue to provide programming to Hulu on par with ABC and Fox, whose parents Disney and News Corp. share ownership of Hulu.
— Continue to provide a high-speed broadband Internet plan, of at least 6 Megabits per second download speeds, that does not require a bundled pay TV subscription, for three years. The price is capped at $49.95 for the first two years. That will allow online video distributors to fairly compete with its pay TV offerings.
— Not unreasonably discriminate against an online video provider that sends video to a Comcast customer. It must treat other firms’ online traffic fairly.
— Offer its programming to legitimate Internet video providers on the same economic terms and conditions that it would receive from other pay-TV providers.
— Make programming available to online video distributors if a peer, such as Viacom Inc., has provided similar programming, for a similar price and under equivalent business terms.
— Not retaliate against other firms for making their content available to a competitor.
Among the commitments it voluntarily agreed to keep, Comcast will:
— Make available to 2.5 million low income households: high-speed Internet access for less than $10 per month; personal computer, netbooks or other equipment for less than $150; and an array of digital literacy opportunities.
— Expand its broadband network to reach 400,000 more homes and provide free video and high-speed Internet service to 600 new institutions such as schools and libraries.
— Maintain or increase local programming at its 10 NBC and 16 Telemundo TV stations.
— Increase children’s programming, including adding 1,500 more on-demand titles.
— Increase diversity by adding Spanish-language programming to its on-demand and online platforms and by adding at least 10 channels to its cable offerings.