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Report: AT&T will accept net neutrality if it gets DirecTV

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
June 3, 2015
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AT&T previously called the FCC's new net neutrality rules "a tragic step in the wrong direction" and even filed a lawsuit to block them. However, it would obey at least some of the new stipulations if its $49 billion purchase of DirecTV is approved by regulators, according to the Washington Post. That's a big reversal from before, when it specifically said it would not tie any net neutrality promises to the merger. It also contrasts sharply with Comcast, which vowed it would walk away from its (now-moot) TWC merger before bending on net neutrality.

So what aspects of the new rules would AT&T abide by? It would reportedly honor the FCC's ban on throttling and blocking of web sites, and wouldn't allow companies like Netflix to pay for fast lanes. Other aspects are still unresolved, however. It remains to be seen how AT&T will handle interconnection, in which companies (like Netflix) pay for direct routing of content to consumers. The FCC wants to force companies to route traffic without a fee, while AT&T thinks it should be able to keep the deals it has in place with private delivery firms.

If accurate, AT&T's new position represents a small crack in the determination of carriers to fight net neutrality tooth and nail.

Other issues are still in dispute before the merger will be improved. Those include whether AT&T can offer music streaming and other perks that don't count against customer data limits; and whether it could sell broadband separately without cable TV bundled in. Of course, AT&T will be forced to honor net neutrality anyway, unless it prevails in court. And the FCC's chief, Tom Wheeler, is pretty sure that's not going to happen. Nevertheless, if accurate, AT&T's new position represents a small crack in the determination of carriers to fight net neutrality tooth and nail.

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