Connect with us

FCC

Executives at AT&T and DirecTV Defend Their Broadband Merger Against its Critics

Published

on

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2014 – AT&T and DirecTV have no doubt their merger will actually strengthen broadband, competition and consumer choice, contrary to naysayers. Both companies had to fend off fears of market consolidation in back-to-back hearings on Tuesday, June 24, before the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.

This proposed merger isn’t like that of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, said AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson. AT&T and DirecTV offer mostly complementary services with little overlap. A merger would allow both companies to “respond to consumer demand.”

Specifically, DirecTV doesn’t have the broadband platform to adapt to the modern Internet landscape, said DirecTV Chairman and CEO White. By the same token, AT&T doesn’t have DirecTV’s programming. It hardly makes any money at all from its U-Verse video service, Stephenson said.

A merger with AT&T would let DirecTV integrate video with broadband, serve users with complementary over-the-top offerings, optimize video service, and manage content cost increases, White said. What’s more, Stephenson said AT&T could cut video subscriber costs by 20 percent or more.

“When complementary providers join forces, the net result is downward pressure on prices and increased incentive to invest in innovation, integration, and infrastructure,” Stephenson said. .

AT&T would also be able to build out a “fixed wireless” solution at 15-20 Megabits per second (Mbps) and “enhance high-speed broadband service to at least 15 million customer locations, most of them rural, within four years of the transaction closing,” Stephenson said. AT&T’s Gigapower offering could be expanded to two million locations in the U.S.

“Combining with AT&T will enable us to meet our greatest challenge and better compete in today’s marketplace,” White said. “We will unlock new growth opportunities to provide new services to customers at a better value. As we offer subscribers better and more innovative services, cable operators and other competitors will have to respond in kind. The result will be more competition and a better video experience for all Americans.”

Others at the hearing weren’t as thrilled. Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers said the merger may spur “too much” and “too rapid” consolidation in the telecommunications industry.

“I am concerned about the loss of a competitor for paid television services in many of the largest markets,” Conyers said. “We should also consider whether smaller video providers in the aftermath of the sheer size of a combined AT&T-DirecTV, could face increased content prices, potentially driving some of them out of business.”

Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer questioned the sincerity of AT&T’s promises to provide fiber to 15 million customers, and even more so, building out Gigabit to two million homes. He called these “marginal upgrades and not new build-out.”

“The remaining two million of AT&T’s 15 million number likewise does not consist of new buildout, but instead references fiber-to-the-premises upgrades to AT&T’s existing network,” he added. “These upgrades are for the most part already in the planning.”

Ross Lieberman, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Cable Association, also expressed concern that while AT&T can “buy its way out of programing cost problems” by acquiring DirecTV, small and medium-sized operators “without AT&T’s financial resources and scale” will be forced out of business.

And in rural communities with few competitors, a merger would further reduce options for residents, incentivizing AT&T to inflate prices.

Both Lieberman and Bergmayer suggested that AT&T “actually invest” rather than make empty promises.

Stephenson fired back, saying that “two million with fiber to the home is a significant capital investment” and not something to be scoffed at.

In the merger’s defense, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said regulators should be wary of acting against AT&T and DirecTV.  Doing so may backfire and cause as much harm to consumers as consolidation. In fact, Lee agreed that in some cases like AT&T’s, mergers represent intelligent decisions on part of telecom companies adapting to the industry.

“It’s essential in considering important transactions, such as the one before us, that we apply rigorous economic analysis,” Lee said. “By ensuring we protect competition, and not any individual company or competitor, we can help to create market conditions that benefit the consumers.”

FCC

FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels.

Published

on

Photo of people working on computers, cropped, in 2011 by Victor Grigas

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted an order that mandated annual reporting from all providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes the internet-service and device costs of low-income Americans.

The FCC order establishing the ACP Transparency Data Collection, not released until Wednesday, requires ACP-affiliated providers to disclose prices, subscription rates, and other plan characteristics on yearly basis. The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels, which, it says, will ease regulatory burdens for providers.

The FCC created the Transparency Data Collection pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile endorsed the nutrition-label method of collection. Industry associations including IMCOMPAS and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations warned the FCC against instituting excessive reporting burdens.

“To find out whether this program is working as Congress intended, we need to know who is participating, and how they are using the benefit,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “So we’re doing just that.  The data we collect will help us know where we are, and where we need to go. We’re also standardizing the way we collect data, and looking for other ways to paint a fuller picture of how many eligible households are participating in the ACP.  We want all eligible households to know about this important benefit for affordable internet service.”

Although the ACP is highly touted by the FCC, the White House, and industry experts, there is evidence the fund has been exploited by fraudsters, according to a watchdog. In September, the FCC Office of Inspector General issued a report that found the ACP handed out more than $1 million in improper benefits. In multiple instances, according to the OIG, the information of a qualifying individual was improperly used for hundreds of applications, achieving payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., contacted 13 leading internet service providers, requesting details on alleged fishy business practices connected to the ACP and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

Continue Reading

Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels

The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.

Published

on

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.

The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.

In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.

“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.

“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”

Image of the FCC’s sample broadband nutrition label

Continue Reading

FCC

FCC to Establish New Space Bureau, Chairwoman Says

‘The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head.’

Published

on

Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via fcc.gov

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission will add a new space bureau that will modernize regulations and facilitate innovation, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday.

The new bureau is intended to facilitate American leadership in the space economy, boost the Commission’s technical capacity, and foster interagency cooperation, Rosenworcel said, speaking at the National Press Club.

“The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head,” Rosenworcel said. “But the organizational structures of the [FCC] have not kept pace,” she added.

The space economy is “on a monumental run” of growth and innovation, the chairwoman argued, and the FCC must remodel itself to facilitate continued growth. Rosenworcel said the commission is currently reviewing 64,000 new satellite applications, and she further noted that 98 percent of all satellites launched in 2021 provided internet connectivity. By the end off 2022, operators will set a new record for satellites launched into orbit, she said.

The FCC will not take on new responsibilities, Rosenworcel said, but the announced restructuring will help the agency “perform[] existing statutory responsibilities better.” In September, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., warned the FCC against overreaching its statutory mandate and voiced support for robust congressional oversight – a position reiterated by House staffers Wednesday.

“The formation of a dedicated space bureau within the FCC is a positive step for satellite operators and customers across the United States,” said Julie Zoller, head of global regulatory affairs at Amazon’s satellite broadband Project Kuiper, on a panel following Rosenworcel’s announcement.

“An important part of [Rosenworcel’s] space agenda is ensuring that there is a competitive environment in all aspects of that space,” said Umair Javed, the chairwoman’s chief counsel, during the panel. “So we’ve taken action to update our rules on spectrum sharing to make sure that there are opportunities for multiple systems to be successful in low Earth orbit.

“We’ve granted a number of experimental authorizations to companies that are doing really new…things,” Umair continued.

The FCC in September required that low–Earth orbit satellite debris be removed within five years of mission completion, a move Rosenworcel said would clear the way for new innovation.

In August, the FCC revoked an $885 million grant to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service. FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington criticized the reversal, and Starlink has since appealed it.

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner

Trending