AT&T announced on Sunday that it will acquire DirecTV in a stock-and-cash transaction worth roughly $48.5 billion. In a move seemingly taken to appease regulators and advocates of Net Neutrality, AT&T also noted that the new company would also uphold its commitment to an open Internet.
If approved, the new company would cater to 26 million customers, the second largest pay tv subscription base (if approved, the Comcast/Time Warner merger will service 30 million customers).
“This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens—mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars, and even airplanes,"AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement released by the company.
Also buried in that statement is AT&T committing to bring broadband services to 15 million homes—most of which are situated in rural communities—and a “Net Neutrality Commitment.” The specific wording for the latter is as follows:
Net Neutrality Commitment. Continued commitment for three years after closing to the FCC's Open Internet protections established in 2010, irrespective of whether the FCC re-establishes such protections for other industry participants following the DC Circuit Court of Appeals vacating those rules.
The rules in question—first established in 2005 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—stipulated that customers had access to whatever content they desired so long as it was legal and that they could use any apps and services they desired (again, so long as they were legal). The rules also provided oversight in terms of competition amongst the service providers. Those rules were thrown out in 2010 after Comcast sued the FCC, claiming that the government agency had no oversight or jurisdiction on the manner.
On Thursday, the FCC voted 3-2 to open the debate on new proposals for how to regulate the web. Many online advocates have criticized the government agency for paving the way for a tiered version of the Internet.
That’s why AT&T’s announcement to follow the pre-2010 seem so out of character. Doing so appears to be going against their own business interest. Then again, it could all be a public relations move. After all, according to a recent report conducted by the Sunlight Foundation—and published by the Daily Dot—that shows that from 2005 until 2013, AT&T was behind 119 lobbyist reports against Net Neutrality, spending roughly $18 million in their efforts.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.