The FCC approves AT&T’s mega-merger with DirecTV, but there’s a catch

att announces first directv deals at amp t building
Sean Davis / Flickr - Creative Commons
In a move that will have monumental effects throughout the video and telecommunications industries, and well beyond, the Federal Communications Commission today approved the $48.5 billion merger between AT&T and DirecTV, reports Variety. The companies have been working on getting federal approval of the deal since it was first greenlit by their respective boards back in September.

While the Commission claimed the approval of the merger was “in the public interest,” the agency did so while laying out certain conditions to which the newly-formed conglomerate must adhere.

For one, AT&T-DirecTV must expand fiber optic broadband access to 12.5 million customer locations, as well as providing Gigabit Internet to any E-rate schools and libraries (including “public and most non-profit K-12 schools as well as all public and many private libraries”). The FCC included this condition because it believes a combined AT&T-DirecTV would have diminished incentive to expand its Internet services to more people. The company must also offer discounts to those with low incomes.

In addition, the FCC added a restriction that would bar the new corporation from applying discriminatory terms or conditions based on how much data a customer uses. The government will also be putting internal and external compliance officers in place to keep a close eye on the company as it conducts business under the newly consolidated brand, to make sure it adheres to the conditions.

According to the FCC, the mandates for the deal exist in order to avoid any potential negative affects to consumers that might occur should the conglomerate attempt to abuse its expanded reach. “The conditions imposed by the commission address potential harms presented by the combination of AT&T, one of the nation’s largest telephone and Internet service providers, and DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite video provider,” said the FCC in a statement.

It’s unclear whether AT&T-DirecTV must also adhere to previously laid out mandates the FCC allegedly put forth should the merger be approved, which would bar the new corporation from purposely slowing websites down, preventing people from accessing competing services and websites, and taking money from other website operators in exchange for faster speeds to create so-called Internet “fast lanes.”

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler recommended that the merger be approved earlier this week, according to Variety, and now that the Department of Justice and the FCC have given the go-ahead, AT&T looks geared to trudge forward with its acquisition. Following the merger, AT&T-DirecTV will have around 26 million cable and satellite subscribers combined, surpassing Comcast’s 22 million subscribers, though it’s unknown when the merger will close.

Today’s approval comes at a time of widespread consolidation in the pay TV and Internet industries. Charter Communications announced plans to purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 billion in cash and stock back in May, just months after Comcast also tried, and failed, to acquire TWC for $45.2 billion earlier this year.


Here’s how you can watch today’s Nvidia GTC 2019 keynote live

Nvidia's rumored 7nm Ampere graphics could debut soon. The company will be kicking off its GPU Technology conference at 2 p.m. PT today, Monday, March 18, and you can watch the opening keynote here.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

Though there are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.

Firefox 66 is here and it will soon block irritating autoplay videos

Do web advertisements have you frustrated? Mozilla is here to help. The latest version of the browser will soon block autoplaying videos by default and will also help make web page scrolling smoother.
Movies & TV

No TV? No problem. Here's how to watch the Final Four online

Whether you want to watch the Big Dance on your phone or on your smart TV, we have the lowdown on all the ways to watch March Madness you can handle. Grab your foam finger and some nachos.

Patreon is having another go at changing the way it charges creators

Patreon messed up pretty badly the last time it tried to change its payment system. Now it's having another go, though this time the changes mainly affect future sign-ups rather than its current community of creators.

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. But with so many subreddits to choose from, exploring them can be overwhelming. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.

Don’t be fooled! Study exposes most popular phishing email subject lines

Phishing emails are on the rise and a new study out by the cybersecurity company Barracuda has exposed some of the most common phishing email subject lines used to exploit businesses. 

How much!? British Airways glitch results in $4.2M quote for family vacation

Website errors sometimes cause flight prices to display at way below the correct price. But British Airways recently experienced the opposite issue when it tried to charge a family more than $4 million for a vacation in Mexico.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.