Comcast ordered to market low-cost standalone internet service

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Comcast has agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a complaint from the FCC that it failed to honor its agreement to offer standalone internet service to consumers when it took over NBC Universal.

It's agreed to to continue to offer the service at a reasonable price and with sufficient bandwidth to customers who don't subscribe to its video cable services - and on terms equivalent to packages that bundle broadband and video cable service. 

It's been told to offer a broadband service with a download speed of at least 6 Mbps for just $49.95 for three years - a year longer than was initially negotiated. It's banned from raising prices on the required broadband service for two years, and ordered to 'visibly offer and actively market' standalone broadband internet access.

"Today’s action demonstrates that compliance with Commission orders is not optional," says FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

"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."
 
The FCC was concerned that Comcast staff weren't telling consumers about the standalone offer. It's now beern ordered to train staff to do just that, and to carry out various other marketing activities including a major advertising promotion.

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

"The unprecedented merger condition extension, significant voluntary contribution, and robust compliance plan send a clear message to the American public and the communications industry that the FCC will vigorously enforce its merger conditions, to the ultimate benefit of consumers."