Nothing's Going Cable's Way at the FCC

It’s official. The FCC approved the $49bln AT&T-DirecTV transaction with conditions. The order includes several conditions that will “directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace.” Specifically, the conditions will enable 12.5mln customers to access fiber-based broadband services. That’s about 10 times the size of the telco’s current fiber-to-the-premise deployment and will triple the number of metro areas it has announced plans to serve. It will also increase the nation’s residential fiber build by more than 40%.

When it comes to net neutrality practices, the conditions will build on the Open Internet Order already in effect, covering 2 merger-specific issues. A bigger AT&T will be prohibited from excluding affiliated video services and content from data caps on its fixed broadband connections. And for greater transparency, the FCC will require AT&T to submit all completed interconnection agreements, along with regular reports on network performance. “Importantly, we will require an independent officer to help ensure compliance with these and other proposed conditions. These strong measures will protect consumers, expand high-speed broadband availability, and increase competition,” FCC chmn Tom Wheeler said. AT&T can close the deal as soon as the order is approved by a vote, New Street Research analysts said. An approval should be a “modest positive catalyst” for the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger and will provide context for where the negotiation over conditions will begin, they said. Speculation about the approval have intensified in the past few weeks, and many believed the telco’s commitment to offer a low-cost Internet service—addressing a key concern of Democrat commish Mignon Clyburn —has solved the last piece of the puzzle.

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