Free Press has filed a petition to deny the merger of AT&T and DirecTV, saying that it would reduce subscription television competition in many markets and put upward pressure on pricing. It sees no mitigating factor to counterbalance that negative.
The watchdog argued that the pay television aspect of the merger was clearly a violation of antitrust guidelines. It believes that price increases would be in the future for all subscribers in a market where both are now operating in competition with one another, not just to subscribers of DirecTV and AT&T’s U-verse service.
As to claims that the merger will increase access to broadband, Free Press isn’t buying it.
Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner said, “AT&T’s attempt to dangle regulatory candy in front of the FCC — in the form of broadband deployment — echoes promises it made during its failed takeover of T-Mobile. Here AT&T is again making the case that eliminating a competitor in a near $70 billion transaction is the only way it can make what amounts to small deployment increases. These supposed benefits are actions AT&T would take in the absence of the merger and they don’t come close to offsetting the harms of this transaction.
Turner concluded, “AT&T and DIRECTV are much more likely to innovate, invest and compete if the FCC doesn’t sign off on their merger.”
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, some ninety companies with special knowledge of AT&T – they are said to have been former business partners – are calling for blockage of the merger. They believe that AT&T engages in anti-competitive behavior and that it violates its fiduciary duty. One, the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition, says AT&T engages in “squelching competition.”