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DISH, Cogent urge net neutrality conditions for AT&T-DirecTV merger

As the FCC plugs away at its review of the $48.5 billion DirecTV-AT&T mega-merger, DISH Network and Cogent Communications, along with other advocacy groups, have filed comments outlining deal conditions that they would like to see.

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DISH, Cogent urge net neutrality conditions for AT&T-DirecTV merger

Michelle Clancy

As the FCC plugs away at its review of the $48.5 billion DirecTV-AT&T mega-merger, DISH Network and Cogent Communications, along with other advocacy groups, have filed comments outlining deal conditions that they would like to see.

According to Reuters, those include AT&T promising to sell broadband as a standalone service outside of its bundles at a reasonable price, and compliance with stricter net neutrality provisions for seven years, regardless of how AT&T's suit against the rules comes out.

The companies also asked that AT&T include all video in any data caps, and urged the FCC to ensure that its peering arrangements with Netflix and DISH's new Sling TV streaming service remain reasonable.

The tie-up will marry the No 2 wireless carrier and the largest satellite company in the US. Together they would have more pay-TV subs than the current market leader, Comcast.

But it is the expansion of broadband access offerings to all of DirecTV's subscribers that critics say worries them the most. The fact that AT&T will expand its addressable market so precipitously raises questions about potential threats to video streamed over the Web, DISH et al argue. The FCC may be open to the arguments: it was concern over competitive threats to online video that derailed the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal last month.

The news comes as a federal appeals court clears the way for regulator review to proceed. This had been halted indefinitely as a lawsuit was given time to play out. To adequately assess the competitive impact of the deal, the FCC said that it needed access to both operators' programming contracts. That in turn sparked a suit from media companies including CBS Corp, Walt Disney Co and 21st Century Fox, which argued that opening the kimono to the FCC's prying eyes would compromise their competitive positions and negotiating power and "cause irreparable harm".

Reviewers at both the Justice Department and the FCC are nearing a decision to allow the deal to go through, according to reports — with an announcement to come as quickly as June.