FCC extends NBC-Comcast comment deadline as it seeks more information

The FCC on Friday announced it would extend the time during which the public may comment on the proposed NBC-Comcast mega-merger so that the Philadelphia-based cable giant can submit additional materials.

Initially, the commission hoped to wrap up the initial public comment phase by May 3, and it had explicitly turned down an earlier request by public interest groups to extend the deadline by 45 days.

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However, the FCC had to renege on its tight timeframe Friday, after it learned Comcast would not be able to submit two crucial documents regarding the deal's effects on consumers with enough time for interested persons and groups to respond. The commission thus revised its deadline to "ensure that all parties will have sufficient time to review and comment on the applications, including these supplemental materials," according to the order issued Friday.

The commission has not yet set a new, hard deadline, but it did say the date would occur 45 days after Comcast submits its reports. Comcast, too, did not specify when it would turn its materials over to the FCC, though a spokesperson promised the company would work dilligently to complete the reports soon.

"We know they want to conduct a thorough and expeditious review of this transaction and we’ll be submitting these reports as soon as possible," Comcast noted in a statement. "We understand and agree in this case with the Commission’s desire to have a full comment period on key documents submitted by the applicants.”

Friday's order has the dual effect of satisfying interest groups -- including Free Press, Consumers Union and Public Knowledge - as well as a growing number of congressional lawmakers, who together asked for an extension so that they could study and respond to the mega-merger.

The debate over the deadline grew so intense last week that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) even introduced legislation that would have forced the FCC to extend its public comment deadline by 45 days. But while it had the support of 49 other House members, mostly those in the Congressional Black Caucus, it probably would have taken the bill from now until May 3 to even reach the House floor.

(Cross-posted from Hillicon Valley)

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