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FCC Republicans: Comcast/NBCU Order Goes Too Far

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The FCC's 4-1 vote for the Comcast/NBCU deal may not be as straightforward as it appeared, though more so than it might have been.

There were actually only two "yes" votes--from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn--with Democrat Michael Copps strongly dissenting. The two Republican commissioners concurred, which meant that they agreed the deal needed to go forward, but felt the conditions went too far. But they did not dissent on any of the conditions, including those on network neutrality.

Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker said that "to secure approval of the underlying transaction," they were concurring in the transaction. But while Comcast executive David Cohen Tuesday praised the process and said the conditions were fair, narrowly-tailored, and balanced--nothing Comcast could not live and operate under--the commissioners suggested they FCC merger approval process had become a vehicle "to extract from petitioners far-reaching and non-merger specific policy concessions that are best left to broader rulemaking or legislative processes."

The conditions were a mix of conditions offered, or as the commissioners suggested, coerced from the parties, and imposed by the FCC. "The resulting Order is a wide-ranging regulatory exercise notable for its "voluntary" conditions that are not merger specific.  The same is true for the separate "voluntary" commitments outlined in Comcast's letter of agreement dated Jan. 17.  While many of these commitments may serve as laudable examples of good corporate citizenship, most are not even arguably related to the underlying transaction. In short, the Order "goes too far," they said.

They said that the merger review process has become "excessively coercive and lengthy." House Republicans unhappy with the deal's network neutrality conditions said Tuesday they would review the process, suggesting they had problems with it, too.