With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Thomas Wheeler giving his green signal on AT&T’s $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV, the deal has passed a major approval hurdle. Even The Justice Department has announced that it “will not challenge” the acquisition since it complies with antitrust laws, thereby paving the way for a smooth takeover once the commission votes. The proposal now awaits a positive vote from the four remaining commissioners.
While Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said, “The commitments that the proposed FCC order includes, if adopted, will provide significant benefits to millions of subscribers,” AT&T has expressed its hopefulness in making it through the FCC votes stating, “We hope the order will be approved by the Commission quickly and we expect to close shortly thereafter.”
If the deal goes through it will create the nation’s largest paid TV network provider, possible passing even Comcast. Wheeler however said that his approval comes with certain conditions to ensure that it will benefit the customers by increasing broadband competition (the full statement is given below):
- Affiliated video services and content cannot be excluded from data caps (on fixed broadband connections)
- AT&T has to submit all interconnection and network performance reports to the FCC
- AT&T has to provide speedy Internet connections to 12.5 million customer locations
- An independent officer might be appointed to ensure that AT&T upholds its part of the deal
The merger will combine AT&T’s U-verse paid TV to 6 million people with DirecTV’s nation-wide (20 million in U.S. and 19.5 million in Latin America) satellite offerings. The entire review process has lasted more than a year (first announced in May 2014) and finally seems to be on its way to gain the express approval of all federal regulators. The question now is, what does this deal mean for Net Neutrality?