The Federal Communications Commission granted approval on Friday for a proposed $48.5 billion merger between telecommunications giant AT&T and satellite provider DirecTV. The move follows an announcement last week by the Justice Department saying that it would not challenge AT&T’s takeover, which will create the largest television provider in the nation with 26 million subscribers. Comcast is currently the largest U.S. television distributor.
F.C.C. officials had been reviewing whether the merger would benefit the public or serve to stifle competition in the telecommunications industry.
I thought after the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal that maybe the commission was going to travel down a little different road in consolidation and begin to say no to some of these deals… I have seen so many lofty merger commitments before and seen the companies find loopholes in them and weasel their way out of them,
said Michael Copps, a former Democratic F.C.C. commissioner and a special adviser to the public interest group Common Cause.
F.C.C. approval of the deal is predicated on the fulfillment of a number of conditions designed to mitigate any negative effects the deal could potentially have on consumers. AT&T must expand its fiber-optic broadband Internet service to 10 times its present size, or 12.5 million customer locations, in order to introduce competition from broadband entertainment services (such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu) in places where the two companies previously competed for television customers. AT&T also will be required to provide broadband at discounted rates for low-income customers. The company must implement these terms within a designated four-year period after the merger, and it may not impose anti-competitive practices using its increased market share.
Read more here – “F.C.C. Approves AT&T-DirecTV Deal,” (Emily Steel, The New York Times).