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Parul P. Desai

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Comcast/NBC: Don't Make Consumers the Biggest Losers

Posted: 11/30/10 01:31 PM ET

A year ago, cable and Internet giant Comcast announced it wanted to become even bigger by acquiring fellow media behemoth NBC/Universal.

Since then the companies have been seeking approval from federal regulators. At Consumers Union we believe the answer should be no.

A combined Comcast and NBC would instantly become a telecommunications colossus, wielding unprecedented influence over the news and entertainment we see and the price we pay for it.

The deep concerns about the proposed deal are about more than size. It would create a media conglomerate of incredible power and reach. Left to its own devices, Comcast/NBC could manage and manipulate the creation and delivery of entertainment, news, and information to its liking. And Comcast/NBC would be free to charge competitors higher prices to access its programming. Inevitably, those costs would be passed on to consumers.

Comcast says it has no intention of jacking up cable and Internet rates, driving out competition, or engaging in other anti-consumer behavior. It's also pledging to invest in local news operations and nourish diverse voices in the media.

Comcast, however, has earned deep mistrust. It's the largest cable and broadband company and the leader in an industry that routinely hikes cable rates, requires customers to buy packages of channels they don't watch to get the few they do, and assesses stiff penalties on customers who want to move to another broadband company for better prices or service.

It's not surprising, then, that Comcast was named the Worst Company in America this year by the readers of Consumerist.org, CU's sister site.

The Comcast/NBC deal depends on clearance by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). We're skeptical that any changes to the proposed merger would go far enough.

Should regulators choose to allow the merger, it must be under strong terms that protect consumers, maintain competition, and ensure a diversity of media choices. For example, regulators must press the companies to ensure that all competitors -- including potential online rivals such as Netflix or Roku -- have access to the stable of all Comcast/NBC programming with reasonable rates and terms. Regulators must also ensure that Comcast does not interfere with any lawful Internet traffic that its subscribers choose to access. These are just a few of the many ways regulators would need to protect consumers.


If you'd like to send a message to the FCC about the Comcast/NBC deal, check out our web site SayNoToComcastNBC.org.