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Earthlink to FCC: Comcast-NBCU Needs Net-Access Conditions

Add Internet service provider Earthlink to the list of companies and organizations that are looking for broadband access conditions on the Comcast-NBC Universal deal.The company has asked the FCC to deny the deal, or if it approves it, to do so contingent on an Internet access condition.

Portraying the combined companies as a giant straddling the land, Earthlink says the deal would create a

“communications and information behemoth” that would control “a vast swath” of the media landscape. Not surprisingly, the company is most concerned about the new company’s footprint in the online space.

“[T]he transaction raises the risk that Comcast will be able to use its market power to stifle growth and innovation of online video and other broadband content as it increases Comcast’s incentives and ability to interfere with the ability of unaffiliated Online Video Program Distributors and programmers to compete, including, Metacafe, Netflix, Vuze, Veoh, Vimeo, YouTube, and many others.”

Eathlink wants the FCC to require Comcast to open its network to at least four unaffiliated ISPs at reasonable rates and conditions, pointing to the broadband access condition in the AOL-Time Warner merger. In essence it would be a merger-specific reversal of the former FCC’s ruling that cable operators don’t have to open their networks to unaffiliated ISPs.

The FCC has heard from a number of public advocacy groups arguing that broadband conditions are necessary. Comcast has said that the broadband video marketplace is competitive and the combined companies’ share of it would be only a small fraction.