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Comcast extends standalone broadband service, pays Treasury $800,000 under consent decree terms

The FCC Enforcement Bureau has adopted a consent decree that resolves an investigation of Comcast regarding its compliance with conditions placed upon the company to win approval of the Comcast-NBCU merger, the commission said June 27.

Under the consent decree, Comcast agreed to a one-year extension of a condition requiring the company to promote and offer standalone broadband service as well as to pay the U.S. Treasury $800,000 as part of the merger settlement.

Comcast originally won FCC approval for the merger in January 2011 subject to several conditions. One required Comcast to offer a broadband Internet service option to customers who do not subscribe to the company's cable TV service. To win approval, the company agreed to offer broadband service with a download speed of at least 6Mb/s at a price of no more than $49.95 for three years.

The consent decree requires Comcast to continue to offer its standalone broadband Internet service, called "Performance Starter," until at least Feb. 21, 2015.

Under the terms of the original merger authorization, Comcast was required to "visibly offer and actively market" its standalone Internet access service. According to the consent decree announcement, the commission received information that suggested the company was not "adequately" marketing its standalone broadband service, which prompted the agency to investigate.

The consent decree included a variety of provisions to promote the service, such as conducting an ad campaign about the standalone service in 2012 and listing the service on its product list offered to customers.

"Today's action demonstrates that compliance with commission orders is not optional," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a press release announcing the consent decree. "The remedies announced today will benefit consumers and foster competition, including from online video and satellite providers, by ensuring that standalone broadband is truly available in Comcast's service areas. I am pleased we were able to resolve this issue."