The FCC has approved AT&T’s $48.5 billion purchase of DirecTV. That means the second-biggest cell carrier is officially merging with the biggest satellite TV provider.
Two giant companies merging is rarely a good deal for people who use their services, especially in an industry like broadband—that’s one of the reasons the dreaded Time Warner-Comcast merger never happened. The US already has a crappy, monopolistic telecom/internet with little meaningful competition. And while the AT&T-DirecTV deal hasn’t been called out for being quite the potentially demonic amalgamation as Time Warner-Comcast, this deal could be all kinds of bullshit, a way for two already-powerful companies to consolidate their interests and make more money off people.
Recognizing that, the FCC is only allowing the merger to go through if the new corporate marriage makes some promises. For starters, AT&T-DirecTV must expand its fiber optic broadband service to an additional 12.5 million customers, since merging eases the incentive to expand as aggressively.
Some net neutrality rules are conditions of the deal too—the AT&T-DirecTV hybrid won’t be able to throttle Netflix, or place sketchy data caps on people who love to stream:
Recognizing that AT&T is the only major ISP that applies “data caps” across the board to all of its fixed broadband customers and that this merger increases the incentive of AT&T-DIRECTV to use strategies that limit consumers’ access to online video distribution services in order to favor its own video services, the Commission requires AT&T-DIRECTV, as a condition of this merger, to refrain from imposing discriminatory usage-based allowances or other discriminatory retail terms and con
It’ll also have to offer broadband “to low-income consumers at discounted rates” and service certain schools and libraries, a concession AT&T offered to help sweeten the merger with regulators. Looks like it worked.