Commentary

Lawmaker: Make Net Neutrality A Condition Of AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

When AT&T made the stunning announcement on Sunday that it planned to take over T-Mobile for $39 billion, consumer groups quickly made it clear they didn't approve.

"There is nothing about having less competition that will benefit wireless consumers," Free Press research director S. Derek Turner said.

"Unthinkable," declared Public Knowledge.

And indeed it seems there is cause for concern that this consolidation, which will result in the largest wireless company in the U.S., could end up forcing consumers to pay more for less.

Now some officials are proposing merger conditions that could alleviate some of the concerns. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) suggested this week that AT&T should have to agree to neutrality conditions in order to secure approval for the deal. "Regulatory approval should contain strict conditions to ensure that consumer concerns about cost, access, choice, and competition are adequately addressed," he said in a statement. "Moreover, such high wireless market concentration raises serious potential net neutrality concerns that should be addressed. The largest mobile network in the nation must not be allowed to limit access to content in a discriminatory manner."

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If neutrality conditions are imposed as a condition of the deal, that could go a long way toward keeping the wireless Internet -- or at least a large swath of it -- relatively open. After all, if the largest wireless company has to adhere to neutrality conditions, other, smaller companies might feel obligated to do so as well -- or risk losing customers.

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