AT&T's (T) proposed $49 billion acquisition of DIRECTV (DTV), made public on Sunday, has Internet activists all but frothing at the mouth. Afterall, Common Cause, the Consumers Union, Public Knowledge and Free Press, to name but a few, are already quite busy attempting to amass public opposition to Comcast's (CMCSA) proposed $45 billion deal for Time Warner Cable (TWC).
Add to those two oversized deal is FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler's uncertain position on net neutrality and the Supreme Court's pondering of Aereo, the upstart operator of an online-subscription service that delivers over-the-air broadcast television to your favorite platform. The general picture is one of seismic changes in how news and entertainment are delivered, changes that may produce a further concentration of the country's telecommunications networks.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), struck quickly this morning, declaring that an AT&T-DIRECTV merger is likely to lead to higher prices, fewer incentives for better residential service, and the domination of the Internet by a few very large media companies.
"I'm skeptical that this deal is in consumers' best interests," Franken said in a statement. "We're moving toward an industry with fewer competitors -- where corporations are getting bigger and bigger and gaining more and more control over the distribution of information. This hurts innovation, and it's bad for consumers."
Todd O'Boyle, Common Cause's Program Director for Media and Democracy, argued that AT&T combining with DIRECTV will eliminate a choice on service for residents with access to AT&T's "U-Verse" package of digital TV, Internet and land-line telephone service. O'Boyle also raised concerns about residential pricing. According to a study by the media activist group Free Press, Comcast's "premium" TV packages increased 21% from 2009 through 2013, 17% at Time Warner Cable and Dish Network (DISH), 15% at Cablevision (CVC) and a comparatively small 8% at AT&T.