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It happened, as predicted by some and discounted by others; a Comcast-NBC Universal merger that has wide-ranging implications on both future Content and Internet usage. However, the tough part for Comcast begins now, today, and that is to placate dissenters like the Consumer Federation of America, the Free Press, and tough Federal Regulators that this will help both competition and increase access to broadband, not hinder it.
The Free Press has issued a press release denouncing the merger while giving reasons that the deal should be at least, a violation of Video Competition Anti-Trust Laws; see (Comcast-NBC Merger: Just Say No). On the other hand, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts released his own statement regarding the merger designed to get out front of the expected controversy that the deal would attract. (Comcast and GE to Create Leading Entertainment Company)
“We are prepared to make affirmative commitments to ensure that the pro-consumer and public interest benefits of the transaction are realized,” Roberts said. “Today, we have announced a number of initial commitments that expand on the capabilities that Comcast and NBCU have built over the years, and the new opportunities that this combination makes possible. These commitments address the needs of various audiences and stakeholders, and we will provide additional details on these and other commitments in our public interest filing with the Federal Communications Commission.”
The merger announcement comes after the National Cable Telecommunications Association press release of Adoption Plus (A+) Program, a pilot initiative of cable operators, manufacturers and vendors of which Comcast is a member, creating a public/private partnership to provide increased broadband participation to a vulnerable part of the population, underprivileged Middle School children. This does partner with the FCC’s vision of increasing broadband adoption and access to the underserved population.
Comcast may have to make serious concessions to pass the regulatory scrutiny that will certainly come such as, keeping Hulu cost free for consumers, share fairly its newly acquired content with competitors, separate retransmission negotiations with NBC from cable operations, and possibly divest itself of NBC stations in overlapping markets. Comcast has not come this far to lose the game in the “home stretch”, and it will use all the lobbying and public relations power needed to win that regulatory approval.