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In Settlement, FCC Says Comcast Will Pay $800K, Extend Stand-Alone Internet Offer

The Federal Communications Commission and Comcast-NBCU came to an agreement today over charges that the cable company had not adequately advertised its affordable Internet-only plans.

Providing data-only plans and making sure customers knew they were available was one of the conditions set by the FCC when it approved the NBC/Comcast merger in 2011.

According to a press release from the FCC, the agreement means Comcast will have to offer the Internet option for another year, bringing the total number of years to four and the company agreed to pay an $800,000 "voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury."

"Today's action demonstrates that compliance with Commission orders is not optional. 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," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

The Washington Post reports:

"The announcement comes amid growing scrutiny of Comcast and other cable providers, which are grappling with a transition by consumers to Internet video providers such as Netflix and Hulu. That trend threatens Comcast's underlying cable television business and Comcast's implementation of new data billing practices has drawn fresh attention from federal antitrust officials at the FCC and Justice Department.

"Netflix and public interest groups have complained that Comcast appears to be making it difficult for consumers to break away from paid cable television services. The company offers its XFinity streaming video service over XBox gaming consoles for free to cable customers. It also imposes a data cap that today only affects a minority of its customers but in the future could deter consumers from streaming videos from competing services such as Netflix or Hulu."

GigaOm reports that Comcast did not admit guilt as part of the settlement, but said it would "train its call agents, make sure the offering is visible on its web site and it committed to a major marketing campaign around the Performance Started service for 2013."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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