Sen. Franken Calls for Hearings on AT&T/DirecTV

A pair of powerful Senate Democrats weighed in on the proposed AT&T/DirecTV merger and the tone was slightly different.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called for hearings on the proposal.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) welcomed commitment by the companies to enhanced rural service--AT&T has said it will leverage the deal to expand high speed broadband to 15 million "customer locations," most of them rural, where it doesn't provide high-speed service today--although he also said they had to be "real and quantifiable."

Though both suggested the deal needed scrutinizing as part of an accelerating trend of consolidation.

Rockefeller also said the companies would have to prove that the creation of "yet another video and broadband conglomerate" could be "responsive" to consumer demands for more choice and lower cost options.

By contrast, Franken declared himself skeptical that the deal was in consumers best interests. “We’re witnessing a major transformation of the telecom industry—and it’s going in exactly the wrong direction," he said, echoing comments he has made about the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal, which he opposes. "We’re moving toward an industry with fewer competitors—where corporations are getting bigger and bigger and gaining more and more control over the distribution of information. This hurts innovation, and it's bad for consumers, who have been getting squeezed by higher bills."

Franken called for hearings in Congress on the deal, which are almost a given. Franken also opposed the Comcast/NBCU merger and AT&T's unsuccessful attempt to buy T-Mobile.

John Eggerton

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.