FCC Orders Comcast to Market Standalone Broadband Service at "Reasonable Prices"

Paul Lilly

Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV operator, has settled a complaint brought forth by federal regulators for failing to comply with certain conditions of its NBCUniversal acquisition. As part of the settlement, Comcast will fork over an $800,000 voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury and offer broadband Internet access as standalone service "at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth" without requiring a subscription to cable video service.

"Today’s action demonstrates that compliance with Commission orders is not optional," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement (PDF) . "The remedies announced today will benefit consumers and foster competition, including from online video and satellite providers, by ensuring that standalone broadband is truly available in Comcast’s service areas. I am pleased we were able to resolve this issue."

Specifically, Comcast is ordered to offer standalone broadband services with a download speed of at least 6Mbps for no more than $49.95 for three years, according to the agreement. Comcast is prohibited from raising prices for two years, and must also "visibly offer and actively market" its standalone Internet service.

The FCC outlined several conditions Comcast must follow in relation to the agreement, such as training its customer service staff to reinforce awareness with the Performance Starter service, listing the Performance Starter service tier on product lists, and conducting a major advertisting campaign promoting affordable broadband.

"This Consent Decree is a huge win for consumers," FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said. "It reinforces and extends the terms of the Commission's merger order to ensure that consumers have reasonably priced standalone broadband Internet options, as teh Commission originally intended."

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