Recently, a few Senators sent a letter to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions that highlighted their objection to the proposed acquisition of Time Warner® by AT&T®. The group of Senators urged the Attorney General to reject the merger if it harms the users. In the letter, 10 Democrats and an independent Senator asked the Department of Justice to closely look at the ways by which the $108.7 billion deal would increase charges for the customers and lower their access to entertainment, news content, and best internet services.
“We have strong concerns that the combined company’s unmatched control of popular content and the distribution of that content will lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and poorer quality services for Americans — substantial harms that cannot be remedied with unreliable, unenforceable, and time-limited behavioral conditions,” they wrote.
Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) signed the letter.
AT&T® announced their plans to buy Time Warner® in October last year. If approved, the deal between AT&T® and Time Warner® would connect one of the top entertainment providers with the largest pay TV and fastest internet provider of the country. Time Warner® owns many entertainment brands like Warner Bros®, HBO®, TNT®, TBS® and CNN®.
The merger is pending regulatory approval and the Justice Department has the power to block the deal, approve it, or approve with conditions. AT&T® came forward with the deal so they do not have to get the broadcast licenses and will not be subject to the FCC review. However, it is not clear when the DOJ will provide their review. CEO of AT&T®, Randall Stephenson had said in April that the deal would go through by the end of the year.
During the election campaign of President Donald Trump, he assured to block the deal and described it as “an example of the power structure I’m fighting.” However, since he took the Oval Office, the President was able to see only merger-friendly advisers. The President’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for antitrust in the Justice Department is Makan Delrahim and he seems to favor the hand off regulatory.
The Senators said in the letter that AT&T® has not said how the merger would be beneficial for the subscribers. Instead, they said that their merger would limit competition and offer them reasons to limit content access or offer priority to their content over that of the others.
Stephenson had called the deal “pro-competitive and pro-consumer” at a Senate hearing in December. He added that AT&T® would “not withhold content to disadvantage someone else.”