AT&T Said to Consider Accepting Net Neutrality Provisions to Close DirecTV Acquisition

AT&T is reportedly prepared to accept some aspects of Net neutrality regulations under concessions that will help the company win approval to acquire DirecTV.

The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with the negotiations, on Tuesday indicated AT&T is willing to abide by FCC regulations that prohibit blocking, slowing down and so-called paid prioritization of Web content as part of its merger with DirecTV.

AT&T is among a number of broadband companies and organizations that have moved to overturn the Internet regulations in federal court. But the FCC’s critics are less concerned with the Commission’s bright-line regulations above and more critical of the agency’s decision to classify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.

In a court filing last month, AT&T and others challenging the Open Internet Order said the FCC “has endeavored to impose a massive regulatory sea change – enforceable through class actions and multi-million dollar enforcement forfeitures – with no intelligible road map for regulated parties to follow.”

The FCC’s critics, including AT&T, are seeking a stay of the Title II reclassification decision during the litigation, a request consumer groups have opposed in papers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

While AT&T has criticized the FCC on Net neutrality, it needs the Commission’s blessing to complete its acquisition of DirecTV. In an April regulatory filing, AT&T argued the merger will enable it to “compete more effectively against cable, which has long stood as the dominant provider of broadband and MVPD services in the United States.”

AT&T and FCC officials declined to comment to the Post on its report.

Dallas-based AT&T has anticipated closing its acquisition of DirecTV in the second quarter, which ends this month. In its first-quarter earnings, AT&T said it expected to achieve synergies of $2.5 billion “on an annual run rate” by the third year after the merger closes.

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