Deborah Lathen, former chief of the Federal Communications Commission's
Cable Services Bureau, is lobbying for Northpoint Technology Ltd. as part of
that company's effort to block the merger between EchoStar Communications Corp.
and Hughes Electronics Corp., parent of DirecTV Inc.
In comments filed Monday by Lathen, Northpoint urged the FCC to reject the
merger because it 'would diminish competition, thereby reducing innovation and
consumer choice. It would create a satellite giant capable of wielding its vast
monopoly power to thwart the entry and success and of new competitors.'
EchoStar and DirecTV asserted that the $25.8 billion merger is necessary to
amass the capacity to provide local TV signals in 100 markets (up from about 40
today), to provide one-dozen high-definition TV channels and to offer robust
high-speed Internet access, especially in rural communities that cable and phone
companies can't afford to serve.
The new company would serve at least 14.9 million subscribers.
Lathen -- who resigned May 18, 2001, to become a private consultant -- led
the FCC's cable staff for three years, during which time the commission approved
AT&T Corp.'s cable acquisitions of Tele-Communications Inc. and MediaOne
She insisted that she was not lobbying the FCC for Northpoint, but acting as
a lawyer and consultant for the firm.
Last January, the FCC approved the merger of America Online Inc. and Time
Lathen led the agency's staff review of all three mergers, which consumer
groups opposed as anti-competitive.
Since 1994, Northpoint has lobbied the FCC to allow it to share
direct-broadcast satellite spectrum to deploy a ground-based service that would
include video-programming channels and high-speed Internet access.
EchoStar and DirecTV opposed Northpoint's plan, claiming that it would
interfere with DBS reception in millions of homes.
The FCC has not decided on the issue.
In its 15-page comments, Northpoint indicated that if the merger were
approved, the agency should require EchoStar-DirecTV to deploy set-top boxes
that are interoperable with services provided by Northpoint and other
'In order for Northpoint and other new entrants to be
able to provide effective competition to cable and satellite, it must have
access to the set-top box.' Northpoint argued.
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