AT&T Willing To Drop Crusade Against Net Neutrality To Seal DirecTV Deal

AT&T's loathing of the FCC's Open Internet Order isn't as strong as its desire to acquire satellite TV provider DirecTV. As such, the telecom is expected to put into writing a promise to abide by the FCC's net neutrality rules in order so that the government organization will be comfortable in green lighting the proposed $48.5 billion merger.

This is a big deal for AT&T, a major telecom that's been vehemently opposed to the agency's net neutrality rules, or at least the way it went about implementing them. The FCC earlier this year was successful in reclassifying broadband Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, thus giving itself the power it needed to regulate ISPs.

DirecTV Van

There are three key parts to the Open Internet Order that AT&T would be agreeing to follow. One of them prevents ISPs from blocking legal content, another prohibits them from throttling Internet connections, and the third ensures that broadband providers do not offer paid prioritization, otherwise known as paid fast lanes.

ISPs are already bound to follow the Open Internet Order, but if AT&T agrees to follow them for a set period of time, it would be legally bound to the rules even if they're overturned in court. However, it's not known how long AT&T would be committing to the rules.

Even by making the above concession, the merger still wouldn't be a slam dunk for AT&T. That said, it would allow AT&T to focus on and negotiate other issues, such as offering a standalone Internet service for customers who aren't interested in a TV bundle, data caps, and interconnection fees like the one Comcast imposed on Netflix.