After “careful, thorough review,” the Federal Communications Commission has given AT&T and green light to acquire DirecTV. The combined entity will boast about 26 million customers. Say hello to the new largest pay TV company in the US.
The approval didn’t come without conditions, however.
Here are all of the conditions the FCC placed on AT&T. They involve the expansions of AT&T’s broadband service –especially in underserved areas, as well as bits about interconnection disclosure and discriminatory usage-based practices. These are the parts that likely satisfied Netflix, which put its backing behind the merger earlier this month.
– Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) Deployment. Recognizing that the merger reduces AT&T-DIRECTV’s incentive to deploy FTTP service, the Commission adopts as a condition of this merger the expansion of FTTP service to 12.5 million customer locations. This condition also responds to the harm of the loss of a video competitor in areas where AT&T and DIRECTV had directly competed before the merger by providing a pathway for increased competition from services that rely on broadband Internet to deliver video.
– Gigabit Service to E-rate Eligible Schools and Libraries. In addition, to ensure that schools and libraries also benefit from expanded fiber deployment to consumers and institutions, the Commission is also requiring AT&T-DIRECTV to offer gigabit service to any E-rate eligible school or library where AT&T-DIRECTV deploys FTTP service.
– Non-Discriminatory Usage-Based Practices. 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 conditions on its broadband Internet service.
– Internet Interconnection Disclosure Requirements. Recognizing the importance of interconnection to the operation of online video services, the Commission also requires as a condition of this merger that AT&T-DIRECTV submit its Internet interconnection agreements so that the Commission may monitor the terms of such agreements to determine whether AT&T-DIRECTV is denying or impeding access to its networks in anticompetitive ways through the terms of these agreements.
– Discounted Broadband Services for Low-Income Subscribers. While finding that the availability of better and lower priced bundles of video and broadband service is a potential benefit of the merger, the Commission also concludes that the public interest requires us to ensure that a bundle of video and broadband services is not the only competitive choice for low-income subscribers who may not be able to afford bundled services. The Commission accordingly requires as a condition of the merger that AT&T-DIRECTV make available an affordable, low-price standalone broadband service to low-income consumers in its broadband service area.
– Compliance Program and Reporting. Given the important role that these conditions serve in securing the public interest benefits of the merger, the Commission requires that AT&T-DIRECTV retain both an internal company compliance officer and an independent, external compliance officer that will report and monitor, respectively, the combined entity’s compliance with all conditions of the merger.
Now that the FCC has given the green light, the nearly $49 billion merger is a go. The US Justice Department recently concluded that the deal was not anti-competitive.
“After an extensive investigation, we concluded that the combination of AT&T’s land-based internet and video business with DirecTV’s satellite-based video business does not pose a significant risk to competition,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Antitrust Division. “Our investigation benefitted from the Division’s close and constructive working relationship with the FCC. The commitments that the proposed FCC order includes, if adopted, will provide significant benefits to millions of subscribers.”