State attorneys general probing AT&T deal for DirecTV
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[September 12, 2014]
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
State attorneys general working to determine whether
Comcast Corp's deal to buy Time Warner Cable Inc
is legal have expanded their investigation to include
AT&T Inc's plans to buy DirecTV, according
to sources close to the merger probe.
Some two dozen states were already coordinating with the U.S.
Justice Department to interview critics and proponents of the
Comcast merger, which some lawmakers and public interest groups fear
will result in higher costs and less competition.
The states have now broadened their focus to include AT&T's $48.5
billion proposed deal for DirecTV, the No. 1 U.S. satellite TV
provider, according to sources close to the probe, asking not to be
named because the matter is not public.
New York and California are part of the multi-state review, the
Florida acknowledged that it was part of the group. Indiana said it
was looking at the deal but declined to say if it was working with
the group of state attorneys general.
It is not unusual for attorneys general to join a Justice Department
investigation of a major merger that potentially affects consumers
in their state.
Asked about the expanded investigation, AT&T spokesman Michael
Balmoris said: "We look forward to discussions with these state
attorneys generals on the significant consumer benefits created by
While antitrust experts have said they expect the AT&T deal to be
approved, the proposed transaction has raised hackles for several
One is because of lost competition in the estimated quarter of U.S.
homes where AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, offers U-Verse, fiber
optic delivery of television programming, high-speed Internet and
home phone service. DirecTV, a satellite alternative to local cable
providers, is present in those markets.
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The attorneys general also are looking at programming issues, one
source said. Content producers and smaller cable operators worry
that the combined company might wield too much power over the
creation, distribution and costs of programming.
They also are asking questions about the merger's effects on the
development of high-speed broadband. As part of the deal, AT&T
pledged to expand broadband to 70 million consumer locations.
The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission must
sign off on both deals before they can close.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown)
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