AT&T: DirecTV deal good for rural customers, has nothing to do with Comcast-TWC

A combined AT&T-DirecTV will be good for rural customers, effectively helping bridge the digital divide, but it has no connection with Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, AT&T argues in a new filing with the FCC.

The digital divide will be narrowed by AT&T's plans to use fixed wireless broadband to serve 13 million homes with speeds between 15 and 20 Mbps, creating "the nation's best opportunity to begin bridging the growing digital divide between urban areas, which enjoy a rich variety of high-speed broadband options and rural communities, with few, if any choices," AT&T said, according to a Channel Partners report.

At the same time, AT&T said, Comcast's pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable has no connection with the DirecTV acquisition because "unlike the Comcast/Time Warner Cable transaction, this merger does not add existing broadband assets to AT&T's broadband network and this does not increase AT&T market presence in broadband," according to a report in The Hill.

While on the whole that's true, AT&T will benefit from DirecTV's Sunday Ticket relationship with the NFL.

The two mergers do have some common ground: Netflix, which has grumbled about both transactions and their impact on broadband pipes needed to deliver the OTT video service.

AT&T, in particular, has been a target of Netflix, which claims that broadband congestion on AT&T networks adversely affected the Netflix business.

"Those claims are not only irrelevant to this transaction, they are inaccurate," AT&T said in comments carried in a Broadcasting & Cable story. "AT&T did not, as Netflix asserts, allow Netflix traffic to become congested."

If there was congestion, the carrier said, it was because of "Netflix's own business decision" to route its traffic to AT&T's network.

"To resolve this issue, AT&T and Netflix entered into a commercially reasonable long-term contract under terms favorable to Netflix," the comments continued.

Comcast, similarly, has argued that Netflix was responsible for any congestion.

Cogent Communications also opposed the merger and asked the FCC to impose conditions to prevent AT&T from discriminating against OTT content.

For its part, AT&T asked the FCC to expedite the acquisition sans conditions.

"Opponents' efforts to show countervailing harm to customers are unpersuasive and, in many cases, transparent attempts to advance parochial agendas. On this record, including AT&T's voluntary commitments, the Commission should approve the transaction quickly," the filing said.

For more:
- Broadcasting & Cable has this story
- The Hill has this story
- and Channel Partners has this story

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