AT&T exec: Deal struck with regulators in mind

The recently announced merger of AT&T and DirecTV was designed with regulators in mind and will benefit consumers, executives from the two companies said Monday.

“There were a few areas we looked at that we thought might be areas of concern or caution for regulators,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said during an investor call Monday morning.

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“We’ve tried to be very proactive ... and tried to get out in front of those.”

AT&T and DirecTV announced late Sunday that the two companies’ boards voted to merge in a $48.5 billion deal that it hopes to get past regulators in the next year.

During Monday’s call, Stephenson said the companies are making “unprecedented commitments to address concerns that the regulators might have.”

Those commitments include abiding by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking access to certain websites before they were struck down in federal court earlier this year.

As the agency attempts to rewrite them, AT&T is pledging to obey the now-defunct rules for three years if the merger with DirecTV is approved.

Additionally, AT&T said the merger would allow it to expand its Internet service to 15 million households and would not keep the company from participating in the the FCC’s upcoming airwave auctions, where it is expected to spend billions.

“We have structured this transaction to ensure we have plenty of capacity to be very active in both of these auctions,” Stephenson said.

The merger is “designed to ensure that when you look at this transaction ... that it is very consumer friendly and it is very much in the public interest,” he continued.

Stephenson and DirecTV CEO Mike White said combining the two firms will allow the resulting company to redefine the way consumers access video content.

“It gives us the opportunity to lead the way and to redefine the video entertainment business for the mobile and high speed world,” Stephenson said.

The deal will allow AT&T to bundle satellite television services with its Internet offerings and build on its plans to deliver video over its wireless network, he said.

White said DirecTV is in “very positive” and “active discussions” with the NFL to renew its exclusive deal that allows DirecTV subscribers to view all NFL Sunday games and expires at the end of next season.

White said he is “highly confident that we’re going to get our deal done” by the end of the year.

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