Once approved, Comcast-NBC merger could face years of net neutrality requirements

According to several media reports, if the FCC approves the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal (and an official announcement might come soon), it could impose net neutrality rules on Comcast for as long as seven years.

Based on FCC sources, Bloomberg News predicts that regardless of what happens to net neutrality on Capitol Hill, Comcast will be banned from blocking or limiting rival content as well as from prioritizing its own services, such as Hulu.

Comcast also would not be able to use set-top boxes or other hardware to steer customers toward its own content at others’ expense, “Bloomberg” reported. The cable operator previously stated a 250GB cap would have to apply equally to its own traffic.

As to pricing, any content offered by a Comcast rival would have to be matched by the operator, offering available “comparable programming” at market prices.

The report noted that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, tried to oppose as much regulation of its proposed NBC merger as possible. But it has faced significant opposition — both from politicians and consumer advocacy groups.

There are fears that Comcast might abuse its connection with Hulu by refusing to supply NBC shows to Apple, Amazon, Netflix and other services that threaten its business. Comcast could also exempt NBC from data caps.

That complaint has already come from Level 3 Communications, an international provider of fiber-based communications services, which recently claimed Comcast was trying to “double dip” and charge extra for traffic coming from Netflix.