$50bn AT&T-DirecTV GOBBLE almost at BELCH stage: DoJ, FCC boss give nod

Home stretch for home entertainment mega-deal

AT&T has scoffed DirecTV up - now it's just about digestion time. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has OK'd the deal, and the head of the FCC is on side as well.

The DoJ said Tuesday it would not be challenging the proposed $48.5bn (£31.2bn) acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T, removing one of the largest hurdles to the deal. Opposition from the DoJ will often sink a deal, as it did with the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal earlier this year.

"After an extensive investigation, we concluded that the combination of AT&T's land-based internet and video business with DirecTV's satellite-based video business does not pose a significant risk to competition," said antitrust division Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer.

Meanwhile, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is calling for a commission vote with the intent of approving AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV.

On Tuesday, the US broadband watchdog's boss circulated a request to his fellow commissioners, asking them to sign off on the deal should AT&T agree to certain conditions. Those conditions include expanding the reach of AT&T's residential fiber network and requiring the telco to adhere to stricter net neutrality provisions.

The forced build-out will, by Wheeler's estimate, expand AT&T's current fiber network by 10 times and, more importantly to the FCC, increase residential fiber access in the US by 40 per cent.

Another part of the compromise will require AT&T to eliminate any exemptions it gives affiliated video services from wired service data caps. This would force AT&T to treat all video streaming traffic the same in terms of user access. AT&T will also have to report network performance and details on interconnect deals to the commission.

"Importantly, we will require an independent officer to help ensure compliance with these and other proposed conditions," said Wheeler.

"These strong measures will protect consumers, expand high-speed broadband availability, and increase competition."

The deal now awaits a final approval from the FCC's commissioners. ®

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