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FCC Chairman Confirms Proposal to Approve AT&T, DirecTV Merger

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday confirmed that he has recommended approval of AT&T’s $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV, subject to a caveat: that AT&T meet a number of conditions as part of the merger.

Wheeler said Tuesday that a proposed order to approve the merger with conditions has been circulated to his fellow commissioners. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today previously announced Wheeler’s plans before he issued a statement confirming them.

“The proposed order outlines a number of conditions that will directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace,” Wheeler said in a statement. “If the conditions are approved by my colleagues, 12.5 million customer locations will have access to a competitive high-speed fiber connection. This additional build-out is about 10 times the size of AT&T’s current fiber-to-the-premise deployment, increases the entire nation’s residential fiber build by more than 40 percent, and more than triples the number of metropolitan areas AT&T has announced plans to serve.”

Wheeler also noted that two additional merger conditions would bolster Internet regulations that took effect earlier this year.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The merger requires the approval of the FCC and U.S. Justice Department, which has been reviewing the deal under antitrust laws. The Journal reported that the Justice Department has already signed off on the deal.

“We are pleased the Department of Justice has completed its review of our acquisition of DirecTV,” AT&T said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to gaining the approval of the Federal Communications Commission so we can quickly begin providing consumers with the benefits of this combination.”

Regulators have been friendlier to the AT&T, DirecTV merger than Comcast’s failed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In April, Comcast called it quits in the face of stiff government opposition to the $45 billion deal.

DirecTV and the Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Wheeler’s statement and the news reports.


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