WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dish Network Corp (DISH.O), Cogent Communications Holdings Inc (CCOI.O) and advocacy groups are asking U.S. regulators to restrict AT&T Inc’s (T.N) power over online video and other content as part of its proposed purchase of DirecTV DTV.O.
The group of critics of the pending $48.5 billion acquisition met with a large team of officials at the Federal Communications Commission, including the top merger reviewers, on May 8 and laid out the most detailed yet demands for potential conditions to the deal, disclosed in a filing on Wednesday.
Reviewers at both the Justice Department and the FCC are nearing a decision that is poised to clear the deal with some conditions, people familiar with the review had previously told Reuters. AT&T is expected to meet with FCC reviewers to negotiate in coming days.
The merger of the No. 2 wireless carrier and the largest satellite company would create the largest pay-TV provider in the country. Dish, Cogent and other critics have focused on the impact of that in combination with the companies’ expansion as an Internet provider to raise questions about potential threats to video streamed over the web.
In the May 8 meeting, they asked the FCC to demand that AT&T promise to sell Internet service as a standalone service outside of any packages, at a reasonable price and at the same speeds as it offers as part of a bundle.
Additionally, they urged the FCC to require AT&T to comply with the new, stricter so-called net neutrality regulations for Internet service providers for seven years after the merger, regardless of the fate of AT&T’s pending court challenge to those rules.
The companies and public interest groups also asked the FCC to require AT&T to include all video services in any data caps that it places on customers’ broadband use. The critics worry that AT&T would put data caps on its customers’ usage but then exempt video content provided by itself and DirecTV.
The group also sought restrictions on how AT&T handles traffic from content companies such as video streaming service Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and long-haul Internet traffic carriers such as Cogent. For Dish, at stake is the future of its Sling TV that delivers programing over the Internet.
The consumer advocacy groups included Public Knowledge, Free Press and New America’s Open Technology Institute.
An AT&T spokesman did not immediately comment. The company has said it expects to close the deal by the end of June.
Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz