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Sen. Kerry tells FCC, Justice Department to make sure Comcast behaves

December 16, 2010 | 11:35 am

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, said he thinks the merger of Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal could work for consumers, but only with a little nudge from the government.

KERRY In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, Kerry stressed the need to ensure that Comcast, the nation's largest cable and broadband provider, does not use its clout to behave in anticompetitive fashion, particularly with regards to the Internet.

"I do not think anyone wants this new entity to act unfairly as a bottleneck or gatekeeper for critical programming for competing distributors or leverage its distribution network against content that competes with its new property," Kerry wrote. "If you approve this merger, these are benchmarks against which it will be judged in the years to come."

If the deal, which was announced over a year ago, closes, Comcast will add NBC's content to its powerful distribution pipes. Besides the NBC broadcast network and Universal Studios, its assets would also include several powerful cable channels including CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo and USA. NBC Universal also owns a chunk of Hulu, the popular online video site. "The proposed merger will create a unique company with unique power in the market," Kerry warned.

Kerry did not list any specific conditions he wants on the $30-billion deal, instead telling the FCC and Justice Department that where they see risks, "propose remedies." Comcast and NBC Universal are pushing to get approval of the deal from the government before the end of the year, but early next year seems more likely.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images