Dem senator, FCC commish call for renewed restrictions on Comcast-NBC

Dem senator, FCC commish call for renewed restrictions on Comcast-NBC
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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission, want regulators to renew behavioral restrictions on Comcast that were imposed as a condition for its merger with NBC in 2011.

The two Democrats argued in an op-ed for Bloomberg that letting the conditions expire could lead to Comcast abusing its power to hurt competitors.

“For the majority of Americans who still get their video from pay-TV providers, and for the growing number who rely on an online video distributor, the expiration of the merger conditions brings a less competitive marketplace,” Clyburn and Blumenthal wrote.

The conditions expired last month, and some Democrats worry that now that the FCC has repealed its net neutrality rules, it will be open season for internet providers to choose what content gets priority.

Clyburn and Blumenthal want the FCC to either extend the expired rules or impose new ones that would prevent Comcast from favoring NBC content or engaging in other discriminatory practices.

They note that the Justice Department cited those same concerns when it took action against a similar merger last year by suing to block AT&T’s $85 billion purchase of Time Warner. In December, Blumenthal urged the Justice Department to investigate the effects of Comcast’s conditions expiring.

“Whether you’re a TV consumer, another cable company or a content provider, there’s good reason to be concerned,” Blumenthal and Clyburn wrote Monday.

A Comcast spokeswoman responded, saying the combined companies had fulfilled their commitments under the merger conditions and had not given regulators any reason to extend them.

“The FCC conditions on the NBCUniversal transaction have expired," the spokeswoman said in a statement to The Hill. "There was no credible basis to pursue an extension or modification of the consent decree or conditions. For seven years during a time of rapid change in the video and broadband markets, Comcast met or exceeded all of the commitments and obligations under the deal."

This story was updated at 1:14 p.m.