* Move allows FCC to also focus on other pressing matters
* FCC review spans several FCC bureaus
WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday tapped a satellite company executive to manage the agency’s review of the proposed joint venture between Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and NBC Universal.
While few expect regulators to block the $30 billion deal, the FCC is trying to address critics’ concerns that the massive combined company could threaten consumers’ access to television programming.
The agency said John Flynn, executive vice president and general counsel at satellite communications company ICO Global Communications (Holdings) Ltd ICOG.O, will coordinate the review to help the agency understand the implications of all the different technologies involved with the transaction.
Flynn will oversee the agency’s internal review of the deal in which Comcast would buy a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co (GE.N) to create a media superpower that would control not just how television shows and movies are made, but how they are delivered to the home.
Flynn declined to comment.
According to several sources, the FCC had planned to hire an outside expert to manage the agency’s review of the deal because the FCC is focused on several pressing matters such as implementing recommendations under the National Broadband Plan and broadband policies.
The FCC also wanted to hire an outside expert to pull together all the different strands of products involved with the transaction: cable, broadcasting and broadband. The review would span across several offices including the media, wireline, and consumer and governmental affairs bureaus.
The proposed transaction is also being reviewed by the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Flynn’s entrance at the FCC comes after a court ruling last month threw into doubt the agency’s authority over broadband. Comcast is the No. 1 U.S. cable and broadband provider.
The FCC plans to regulate broadband access as a telecommunications service — not as an information service — but said the industry should trust that it will not apply the most burdensome price controls and competition mandates that come with that framework.
Following the court ruling, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pledged to move forward with a light regulatory touch — a move aimed at winning support from broadband providers.
Prior to being hired by ICO in 2006, Flynn was a counsel at the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in Washington, where his practice focused on communications and intellectual property.
Experts describe Flynn’s role as akin to that of Blair Levin, a former FCC staffer and telecom analysts who was temporarily hired to manage the FCC’s broadband plan, a blueprint released in March to boost Internet speeds and provide online access to more Americans.
Flynn joined Wilmer Cutler when William Lake, who is now chief of the FCC’s media bureau, co-chaired the law firm’s communications and electronic commerce practice.
Flynn also was vice president and deputy general counsel of Commerce One Inc, a software company he helped advise on corporate, regulatory and litigation matters.
Flynn also served as general counsel and vice president of government affairs of rStar Broadband Networks Inc and clerked for Supreme Court justices Byron White and John Paul Stevens. (Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Gary Hill)