The FCC is hanging on the precipice of approving the $49 billion merger between AT&T and No 1 US satellite TV provider, DirecTV — but it hinges on an ambitious fibre roll-out.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler issued a confirming statement: "An order recommending that the AT&T/DirecTV transaction be approved with conditions has circulated to the commissioners. The proposed order outlines a number of conditions that will directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace."
In other words, there are conditions involved — which Wheeler said still need to be approved by his colleagues. Specifically, AT&T would need to commit to 12.5 million customer locations having access to a competitive high speed fibre connection. This additional build-out would be about ten times the size of AT&T's current fibre-to-the-premise deployment, would increase the entire nation's residential fibre build by more than 40%, and would more than triple the number of metropolitan areas AT&T has announced plans to serve.
"In addition, the conditions will build on the Open Internet Order already in effect, addressing two merger-specific issues," Wheeler continued. "First, in order to prevent discrimination against online video competition, AT&T will not be permitted to exclude affiliated video services and content from data caps on its fixed broadband connections. Second, in order to bring greater transparency to interconnection practices, the company will be required to submit all completed interconnection agreements to the commission, along with regular reports on network performance."
The FCC will require an independent officer to help ensure compliance with these and other proposed conditions, he added.