AT&T Opposes Net Neutrality Conditions On Merger

Consumer advocacy groups, along with Cogent and Dish, recently urged the Federal Communications Commission to require AT&T to follow the new net neutrality rules for seven years -- even if they're struck down in court -- as a condition of any merger with DirecTV.

AT&T doesn't like that idea -- which isn't surprising, considering that it's suing to vacate the new rules.

This week, the company officially said that there's no reason to tie the new broadband regulations to its proposed $48.5 billion merger. Instead, AT&T says it's willing to follow the 2010 neutrality rules -- which are weaker than the current ones -- for three years after the merger closes.

The current rules, slated to take effect June 12, prohibit broadband providers from blocking traffic and creating paid fast lanes. (The 2010 rules prohibited all broadband providers from blocking or degrading traffic, but only barred wireline providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.) The new rules, unlike the old ones, also contain a "general conduct" provision that bans providers from hindering consumers' efforts to reach content companies online.



The consumer groups, Cogent and Dish also asked the FCC to require AT&T to offer standalone broadband service of at least 25 Mbps for no more than $29.95 a month.

AT&T doesn't like that idea either. Instead, the company counters that it will offer stand-alone service for thee years at “reasonable market-based prices.”

An example of this kind of pricing, according to AT&T, is service of at least 6 Mbps (which no longer qualifies as broadband, under the FCC's new definition) for $34.95 per month or less.

The company adds that this slower service is “more widely available than a service of higher speeds.”

Cogent, Dish and the consumer groups also say that regulators should prevent AT&T from exempting any video service it owns from data caps or pay-per-byte billing. That type of billing exemption obviously gives consumers an incentive to stream video via a service that won't count against their data cap, as opposed to one that could max out their monthly broadband allotment.

AT&T isn't thrilled with that idea either, calling the proposal “harmful to consumers, who would otherwise benefit from such offerings."

The company adds that the proposal “would deprive AT&T customers of service offerings tailored to fit their usage and their budget."

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