Fifteen US Senators are asking AT&T to provide them with an outline of how they plan to benefit the public with the $85.4bn acquisition of Time Warner.
Democrats Al Franken (MN), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Patrick Leahy (VT), as well as Independent Bernie Sanders (VT), signed on to the letter [PDF] calling for AT&T boss Randall Stephenson and Time Warner chief Jeffrey Bewkes to tell them how the US public stands to benefit from the mega-merger between the telco giant and the broadcasting company.
Among the points they want to examine are how coverage and reliability would improve – particularly in rural areas – and how the combined company would ensure that consumers have a choice in service providers and plans.
"To achieve greater transparency for regulators, lawmakers, and American consumers, we ask that you provide us with a public interest statement detailing how you plan to ensure that the transaction benefits consumers, promotes competition, remedies all potential harms, and further serves the public interest through the broader policy goals of the Communications Act," the letter reads.
The Senators note that the deal will likely be able to side-step any FCC review, thanks to the decision to omit Time Warner's broadcasting licenses from it. With the merger not subject to the usual scrutiny from the US communications bod, the Senators instead want AT&T and Time Warner execs to let them provide checks on how the public stands to benefit.
"Importantly, the parties' application is made available to the public, and consumers, advocacy organizations and the business community are given a meaningful opportunity to respond with their perspective on how the transaction would impact their individual interests," the letter reads.
"But by divesting the relevant licenses, AT&T and Time Warner will no longer have the legal burden of proving that the proposal would serve the public interest, and the public is left largely in the dark about how the deal would impact the affordability and quality of their phone, internet, and video services."
The acquisition had previously been panned by both parties in Washington when it was announced in October. Since then, both execs have embarked on an effort to drum up political support, appearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in December and Stephens meeting with then-President elect Trump in New York in January. ®