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Markey Calls for Net Neutrality, Program Access, Carriage Conditions

Add Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to the list of House Democrats calling for online access conditions as the FCC gets down to figuring out what conditions to put on the Comcast/NBCU deal.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday (Dec. 7), Markey called for program access and carriage conditions, essentially seconding a request (though it is unclear which letter came first) by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for similar conditions. Markey is also a senior member of the committee as well as past chairman of the Communications Subcommittee.

Echoing conditions proposed by the American Cable Association, Markey called for arbitration and standstill agreements for retrans negotiations for NBC TV stations and for negotiations by third parties for NBC-owned cable networks, as the FCC has done for regional sports nets in previous transaction conditions (including in the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia deal).

Also echoing Waxman, Markey said there should be a program carriage condition that requires Comcast to put competing independent news programmers on the same tier and in the same "neighborhood" as its owned content (CNBC, MSNBC, for example).

Markey says the FCC should impose a network neutrality condition. "A merged Comcast-NBCU should be prohibited from favoring or blocking access to lawful content pursuant to the commission's Internet Policy Statement of Aug. 5, 2005.: the FCC is currently planning to vote on an order expanding and codifying the guidelines in that statement, but like Waxman, Markey wants to make sure Comcast has to abide by them whatever happens with that vote.

Markey also wants a stand-alone wholesale broadband access condition similar to that in the AOL-Time Warner deal.
Unlike Waxman, Markey did not suggest he would like to see the FCC finish its review by year's end, but the flurry of letters and activity surrounding the deal suggests the FCC is close to producing a draft for the other commissioners to vet, though that had not happened at press time, according to various FCC sources.