Walden: Merger reviews are bait for broadband firms to support FCC

As the net-neutrality debate moved to the House floor on Tuesday, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) made it clear he thinks it's bunk for Democrats to cite support for the regulations from Internet service providers.  

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) had highlighted phone and cable companies' approval of the FCC's controversial rules, noting that AT&T's top Washington executive Jim Cicconi testified in the House that the rules might remove uncertainty and allow future investment. The FCC has also cited support from broadband providers to bolster the rules it passed in December.  

But Walden strongly dismissed that support on Tuesday.  "They're their regulator," Walden, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Communications subcommittee, said of the phone and cable companies. "They have mergers, if you've heard of those," he said, adding that broadband providers supported the rules to fend off a stricter regulatory regime.  

After AT&T supported the FCC regulations, it quickly announced a plan to acquire T-Mobile, a transaction that requires FCC approval. 

The company, however, has dismissed the idea that its support for net neutrality was related to the merger.  

Verizon's top policy executive Tom Tauke also dismissed that possibility recently. His company decided to bring the FCC to court over net neutrality, while AT&T decided to support the regulations.  

"It crossed my mind," he said of the merger motivating AT&T's decision. But he ultimately dismissed the possibility, saying the FCC would not be so corrupt as to approve a merger in return for a favor.