Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay $225,000 in a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission over allegations raised by two labor groups that the company failed to make public-inspection files available in a timely manner.
The complaint was filed last November by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which sent representatives to 225 separate Comcast offices to inspect files the month before.
The FCC said Comcast disputed that files had to be maintained at every office in every community. However, the company acknowledged that it did not make the files available to the labor groups “as promptly as they should have been.”
Public files are required to include information about equal-employment opportunities, operation of the emergency-alert system, requests by political candidates to purchase time and rates charged to leased-access programmers, a cable attorney said.
Comcast’s payment to the FCC was described as a “voluntary contribution,” rather than a fine. The MSO did not admit nor deny any wrongdoing.
Both the company and the FCC agreed that a consent decree was the correct step to conserve resources and terminate the nearly yearlong investigation by the agency’s Enforcement Bureau.
Among other things, Comcast agreed to a compliance plan that requires the company to notify every subscriber in writing of the location of the public-inspection file for that customer’s cable system. The first notice has to go out within 120 days, and Comcast has to repeat the process once per year. Comcast will also post the location of all public inspection files on its company Web site (www.comcast.com).
“The compliance plan renews our commitment to ensure that the public files include the required information and are accessible to the public,” Comcast spokeswoman D’Arcy Rudnay said.
FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein issued a joint statement saying that the Comcast settlement “highlights the urgent need for the [FCC] to re-examine the adequacy of its public-file-disclosure requirements. Cable operators and broadcasters should not shy away from making information about how they serve their communities widely available to their viewing public.”
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