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AT&T Gains FCC Chairman’s Approval for DirecTV Acquisition

July 22, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

AT&T announced quite a while ago, that they were buying DirecTV, this actually came after Comcast had decided they wanted to buy Time Warner Cable. Then ultimately backed out, due to the FCC not wanting the two to merge. It’s being reported by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, that the FCC will be voting on this soon, and the Chairman, Tom Wheeler, is already onboard with the merger. On Tuesday, Wheeler circulated an order to the other four commissioners to approve the bid from AT&T for DirecTV, which is around $48.5 billion.

The proposed order that Wheeler has circulated to the other commissioners, outlines a number of the conditions that is going to benefit consumers. This is due to bringing in more competition to the broadband marketplace, which is really needed these days. Wheeler said that if the conditions are approved by the other commissioners, this would allow 12.5 million customer locations will have access to a very competitive high-speed fiber connection. AT&T’s current fiber-to-the-premise would be built-out about 10 times the current size. This would also increase the entire country’s fiber build by more than 40% and also more than triple the number of metro areas that AT&T has announced plans for. Which is important, with consumers doing more and more things over the internet and streaming more and more videos – as well as 4K coming in – faster data speeds are definitely needed. In fact, AT&T’s biggest competitor, Comcast, already has 2Gbps speeds available in most of the US.

“In addition, the conditions will build on the Open Internet Order already in effect, addressing two merger-specific issues. First, in order to prevent discrimination against online video competition, AT&T will not be permitted to exclude affiliated video services and content from data caps on its fixed broadband connections. Second, in order to bring greater transparency to interconnection practices, the company will be required to submit all completed interconnection agreements to the Commission, along with regular reports on network performance.”

While AT&T may have the approval of the FCC Chairman, the Department of Justice still needs to go ahead and approve this acquisition. Which the DOJ stated that they would not challenge the AT&T/DirecTV merger, so that shouldn’t be an issue for AT&T or DirecTV at this point. This means that AT&T is one step closer to merging with DirecTV, which could be good for consumers but also pretty crappy for consumers. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.