Comcast says it can live with FCC conditions, but consumer groups cry foul

It didn’t take Comcast long to respond to FCC Chairman Genachowski’s holiday leak to the press. Within hours, the cable giant said it was “gratified” that Genachowski’s office had taken the step forward.

“Starting on the day of the deal’s announcement, we have emphasized that this transaction is pro-competitive, pro-consumer, and will deliver real public interest benefits,” said Comcast, who has already spent $15 million lobbying the government to approve the deal.

To the Free Press, an organization that has strongly opposed the merger and is an ardent supporter of net neutrality, the very idea that Comcast indicated it could live with the FCC’s conditions is a clear sign of trouble. The group said consumers would be the ones footing the bill through more expensive bills and fewer media choices.

“We are deeply disappointed that the FCC is apparently moving to approve this merger,” said Coriell Wright, the policy counsel for Free Press. “Comcast may be rushing to get this deal done as quickly as possible, but the FCC should put down its rubber stamp and be sure they have reviewed all the evidence and reflected on the long-term impacts of more media consolidation.”

Free Press joined the Media Access Project (MAP) in calling on the FCC to delay the merger until Comcast makes its programming contracts back to 2006 part of the FCC record in the transaction. MAP said the FCC chairman had promised not to make a decision until it had reviewed the entire record.

In a letter to Genachowski, the consumer groups reminded him of his March 11, 2010, testimony at a Senate hearing when he promised to review all the records before making a decision. The group then noted that Comcast has not complied with the FCC’s request for contracts dating back four years.

Joining in the criticism was the Consumers Union. “We believe that consumers would be best served if the deal was rejected,“ said Parul P. Desai, an attorney with Consumers Union. “It’s hard to imagine how a cable giant like Comcast owning a content empire like NBC Universal could be a plus for consumers’ pocketbooks and competition.”