Companies want net neutrality as part of AT&T merger

Companies want net neutrality as part of AT&T merger
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Companies like Dish and Cogent Communications want AT&T to follow net neutrality rules as a condition of its proposed merger with DirecTV, regardless of whether the new regulations are struck down in court. 

The companies, as well as a trio of public interest groups, outlined a host of conditions they want imposed on the proposed $48 billion AT&T deal in meetings with Federal Communications Commission staff, according to disclosure filings published this week. 

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The groups — including Free Press, Public Knowledge and New America's Open Technology Institute — asked that AT&T adhere to the new net neutrality framework for seven years after the deal goes through. 

That would be a tough sell for AT&T, which has fiercely opposed the new rules, and has filed a stand-alone lawsuit against them. The company, along with half a dozen other groups, has also asked the courts to delay the rules until there's a final decision on their legality. 

The net neutrality request was cited in a single paragraph at the end of an eight-page filing. The groups spent the majority of the filing asking for conditions on interconnection deals and requesting that AT&T be forced to offer stand-alone Internet service. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that regulators were close to finishing their review of the deal, and they are unlikely to block it. However, some conditions could be imposed, according to the report.

The report comes less than a month after Comcast scrapped its plans to merge with Time Warner Cable due to regulator concerns. 

Some are worried that AT&T's merger with a major satellite provider will give it incentive to thwart online video services like Netflix or Dish's new Sling TV. AT&T has disputed this. 

"Should the transaction proceed, AT&T will obtain a massive video distribution business that it will have every incentive to protect from competitive threats," the groups wrote in their FCC filings. 

To reduce the incentive for harm, the groups want AT&T to offer stand-alone Internet service for a reasonable price and to advertise it prominently in their promotional and advertising material, rather than just pushing its bundled deals. They also demanded that AT&T not exempt any of its own video service from its data caps. 

The groups also asked for specific interconnection terms, limiting the charges AT&T can impose and requiring that it relieve congestion when Internet traffic backs up. Netflix has also asked for the FCC to impose interconnection conditions if the merger goes through.