US public interest group Public Knowledge is calling on Congress to be vigilant as multiple mergers come before it in the coming months. Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer is testifying June 24 before the House Judiciary Committee in the hearing titled ‘The Proposed Merger of AT&T and DirecTV’.
In Bergmayer’s testimony, he will note that policy-makers and the press are paying a lot of attention to rumoured deals such as Sprint/T-Mobile, and pending mergers such as Comcast/TimeWarner Cable, “but during this time of consolidation, Congress must pay close attention to the specifics of each new deal as they are announced,” he advises.
“This proposed deal fails the antitrust test, it fails the public interest test, and it raises many concerns,” he says. “AT&T and DirecTV directly compete in more than 60 local TV markets. This deal runs afoul of the Department of Justice’s antitrust guidelines. It’s hard to accept AT&T’s claims that buying a direct rival can be good for competition. Most of AT&T’s public interest arguments are just re-statements of its existing policies and plans. It really plans to do little more than upgrade its existing network. These kinds of ‘commitments’ are not enough to allow a deal like this to go through,” he argues.
“We’re also concerned that some of AT&T’s plans if the merger goes through would leave rural America with second-class communications service. Additionally, if AT&T launches a new online video service with DirecTV, policy-makers should be aware that AT&T has the means and motive to discriminate in favour of its own service and against competitors,” he warns.