Skip to main content

Dish, Cogent Seek Neutrality Conditions on AT&T/DirecTV

Dish and Cogent have teamed with Public Knowledge, Free Press and the New America Foundation to ask the FCC for a laundry list of broadband conditions, including network neutrality, on the proposed AT&T/DirecTV merger tied primarily to what they say would be the combined companies incentive and ability to "thwart" over-the-top video.

They point out that the deal has been pitched as allowing the combined company to offer an integrated package of broadband and video (which AT&T and DirecTV point out would make them a stronger competitor to Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other players), and say their asks are the "minimum" the FCC must do to resolve potential competitive harms if it decides to approve the deal.

They want the combined company to agree to adhere to new Title II-based open Internet rules for seven years no matter what happens in court, similar to the condition agreed to by Comcast in the NBCU deal, and which Comcast would likely have agreed to in the Time Warner Cable merger that was withdrawn.

Among the other conditions they say would be necessary on such a deal include 1) offering stand-along broadband, of speeds of at least the FCC's new 25 Mbps benchmark (or more if the FCC raises the stakes) for high speed where possible—at a set price of $29.95 for seven years; 2) agreeing not to exempt any video services from any usage-based pricing; 3) and nondiscriminatory billing and keep (free interchange of traffic) interconnections, with AT&T agreeing to upgrade its ports to avoid congestion or package loss at certain capacity thresholds.

Reports have the FCC and Justice nearing the end of their vetting process, and has always been considered an easier ask than Comcast/TWC. Some strong opponents of the COmcast/TWC deal—Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), for example—have declined to weigh in squarely against the AT&T/DirecTV deal, saying only they have concerns, with some offering conditions.

One thing that could please regulators looking for broadband buildouts at higher speeds is AT&T's promise to extend fiber and speeds of up to 1 Gbps to millions more customers.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.