Sources: FCC Poised to OK AT&T/DirecTV Merger

The word Friday from a host of industry sources tracking government vetting of the deal is that the $48.5 billion merger between AT&T and DirecTV is expected to get the green light from the FCC and the Department of Justice soon, with negotiations over deal conditions wrapping up and a decision coming likely within "days" or at most a couple of weeks.

It's never over until it's over, but multiple sources said the deal would be approved, perhaps as early as next week.

The proposed merger never drew the kind of pushback from anti-consolidation activists that the failed Comcast/TWC merger did.

The FCC stopped its informal shot clock on the deal and is not expected to restart it until it is about ready to decide.

The clock is currently on day 170, though the deal has had months of stoppage time while the FCC collected more documents and waited for a court decision on third-party access to contracts.

The deal was actually struck in May 2014, but after the document and court delays on the deal vetting, the companies moved their break-up trigger from May to August.

AT&T/DirecTV will almost certainly have to abide by net neutrality conditions. Likely they will have to adhere to the three bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, and perhaps agree to fair and reasonable interconnection deals rather than having to swear allegiance to the Title II regime, though one industry attorney thought the optics of getting a major ISP to commit to Title II might be tempting for the commission.

AT&T and other ISPs who have sued the FCC over Title II reclassification have said they are not challenging those bright-line rules, just the way the FCC arrived at them.

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.