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Public Knowledge: AT&T-Time Warner Talk Highlights Need for Privacy Regs

Public Knowledge, which has pushed back on numerous media mergers, used reports of a possible AT&T-Time Warner merger by saying it spotlights the need for FCC privacy protections.

"[P]otential industry consolidation highlights why the FCC must move expeditiously to develop thorough privacy protections for consumers so that major industry players do not abuse the sensitive information they collect from the customers, and emphasizes the need for the FCC to vigorously enforce its Open Internet rules," said John Bergmayer, senior counsel to Public Knowledge.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on new broadband privacy rules Oct. 27.

Public Knowledge pointed out that AT&T had recently bought DirecTV and announced a new online video streaming service to suggest that further consolidation of two big media companies might not be consumer friendly.

"[V]ertical integration could increase AT&T's opportunities for data collection, which has relevance to FCC privacy initiatives. Similar sorts of self-dealing and discrimination issues have been at the center of the review of similar deals in the past..."

Bergmayer said it was ultimately up to AT&T "to prove that this deal would benefit, rather than harm consumers and competition," but he had his doubts.

"As with all proposed mergers, competition authorities should carefully review an AT&T/Time Warner transaction to determine whether the substantial competitive dangers are either outweighed by demonstrable benefits or whether the dangers can be prevented with thoroughly enforceable conditions. If not, it should be blocked."