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FCC: Comcast Can Strike Deals with Fleeing Subs

The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that it had no authority to make sure special deals Comcast Corp. offers to restive customers are available to everyone in the same market.

The decision stemmed from overbuilder WideOpenWest’s complaint that Comcast offers to some customers in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Mich., were illegal because Congress required cable companies to publicize their rates and prohibited "secret" rates negotiated privately.

In the suburb, Comcast’s digital tier costs roughly $51 a month for most customers. But, subscribers signaling they will cancel and sign on with WOW, could get the digital package for $21.95 per month for six months.

The FCC said WOW’s "sweeping" interpretation of customer protections went too far. Laws imposed to ensure that customers get programming packages they pay for are "a far cry from a mandate that any limited-term win-back or retention offers ever made be disclosed or extended uniformly to all subscribers.

WOW does have other options remaining. The overbuilder could file a complaint with local franchise authorities, file a lawsuit alleging unfair competition, or even return to the FCC to claim a violation of uniform price rules.