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AT&T’s Latest Promise to FCC in Effort to Win DirecTV Merger Approval Reeks of Desperation

AT&T DirecTV Merger

While no one on the outside knows exactly what’s going on behind closed doors, it appears as though AT&T still has some work to put in if it hopes to get its $50 billion DirecTV merger proposal approved by regulators. The company had already made some promises in an effort to win favor with the Federal Communications Commission, including a promise to deliver gigabit U-verse Internet service to nearly 12 million households, but now we’ve reached a new phase of bargaining that was probably inevitable: AT&T has a deal for poor people that it hopes is too good for regulators to pass up.

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While cord cutters might be the biggest losers if AT&T manages to get its DirecTV merger approved, AT&T is now trying to position low-income households among the biggest winners if the DirecTV deal is pushed through. Making promises to the poor, of course, is a mandatory stage in the mega-merger process for telecoms companies.

According to a recent filing, AT&T is willing to guarantee affordable Internet service for low-income households if its merger is approved. Here’s what the offer looks like, according to the company’s filing with the FCC:

1. AT&T will make a low-income discount program available to qualifying consumers in its wireline footprint for four years beginning a reasonable time period after closing (all such discounts shall end on the fourth anniversary of the commencement date of the program);

2. Where AT&T has currently deployed broadband service at speeds exceeding 3 Mbps, AT&T will offer a broadband wireline DSL service at speeds up to 5 Mbps to households in AT&T’s wireline footprint for $10 per month for the first 12 months of service (rising to $20 per month for the remainder of the term of the commitment);

3. Where AT&T has currently deployed broadband service but at top speeds below 5 Mbps, AT&T will offer a broadband wireline DSL service at speeds up to 1.5 Mbps, where available, to households in AT&T’s wireline footprint for $5 per month for the first 12 months of service (rising to $10 per month for the remainder of the term of the commitment);

To qualify, customers must be eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, must not be current AT&T broadband customers and cannot have had service in the past six months, and must not owe AT&T any money.

While this all sounds well and good on paper for the most part, let’s not forget that historically, AT&T mergers have left a trail of broken promises behind them. But this time is probably different, right?

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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