Sen. Franken asks regulators to 'carefully scrutinize" AT&T-DirecTV deal

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has turned his anti-merger fervor towards AT&T's (NYSE: T) proposed acquisition of DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV).

Sen. Al Franken

Franken

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Assistant Attorney General William Baer, Franken urged regulators to "carefully scrutinize" the deal with the viewpoint that "the combined entity will have enhanced power in virtually every corner of the telecommunications market."

Franken said he was especially suspicious of AT&T's net neutrality stance, noting in the letter that the carrier "has a history of skirting the spirit" of the net neutrality and open Internet order.

"For example, AT&T allegedly has blocked applications that compete with its own voice and messaging services, including Skype, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Voice and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) FaceTime," Franken wrote in the letter that is posted on his Congressional website. "AT&T stopped blocking FaceTime only after the FCC began investigating whether AT&T's conduct violated the Open Internet Order."

Franken, a vocal critic of the other big media consolidation bid--Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA)-Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC)--also warned that the deal would not lower consumer costs but could, instead, raise prices by "forcing consumers into bundled packages that include services that consumers may not want."

In this instance, he called on AT&T to "articulate its commitment" to standalone broadband pricing, a commitment Franken admitted he has already received from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

AT&T did not respond to a request for comment on this story before deadline.

For more:
- see this news release and letter

Related articles:
Comcast-TWC would control 29% of the U.S. pay TV market, nearly 36% of broadband: report
AT&T-DirecTV merger may provide much needed cover for Comcast
FCC sets review teams for AT&T-DirecTV, Comcast-TWC-Charter deals

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