Comcast deal says it can't block online video, but loopholes abound

While Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) ongoing traffic management/peering dispute with Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT) and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) might indicate otherwise, the MSO is supposed to open the doors for online content from non-cable sources such as Netflix and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL).

That's part of the deal Comcast cut with the government to be able to take over NBCUniversal's trove of programming content. In short, Comcast can't stop its 17 million broadband subscribers from watching shows like 30 Rock and The Office online--if, of course, they're available online.

There are all kinds of loopholes attached to the strings. For instance, Comcast could offer to sell its content, but price it unattractively. It could also, as Level 3 is now claiming, raise the rates for accepting video-heavy traffic from other carriers.

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