With Frenemies Like These

The nation’s top antitrust enforcer, Makan Delrahim, who is currently taking on AT&T in a Washington, D.C., federal court to block its merger with Time Warner, will also be defending AT&T’s business interests in another D.C. federal court.

In a speech at Vanderbilt University, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division pointed out that his department would be defending the Federal Communications Commission in the legal challenges to its network neutrality regulations rollback, which AT&T backed and is defending in court as a member of USTelecom. That will put Delrahim and the telco on the same legal side.

Delrahim pointed out that the economic regulations, like the FCC’s network neutrality issue, fall under his division’s purview. “When the U.S. government defends [such regulations],” he said, “it’s the antitrust division that gets involved with defending their rules.” While the net neutrality case was going to be argued in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California, it has been moved to the D.C. Circuit, which has heard previous appeals of the FCC’s rules.

Delrahim did not comment on Justice’s lawsuit against the AT&T-Time Warner merger, which began in Washington two weeks ago.

But he did talk about the importance of the court’s decision and its potential impact on the future direction of business and vertical integration.

Delrahim has signaled that he thinks that rather than apply conditions under consent decrees, Justice should apply structural remedies, such as spinoffs, then let the market determine what happens next, instead of having the government enforcing measures to make an illegal deal legal.

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.