WASHINGTON — On Sunday, AT&T announced it had reached an agreement to buy top U.S. satellite-TV operator DIRECTV for $48.5 billion plus $19 billion in debt. If approved, the deal would be the latest in a string of media mega-mergers in an industry with a dwindling number of competitors.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“The captains of our communications industry have clearly run out of ideas. Instead of innovating and investing in their networks, companies like AT&T and Comcast are simply buying up the competition. These takeovers are expensive, and consumers end up footing the bill for merger mania.
“AT&T is paying $48.5 billion and taking on an additional $19 billion in debt to buy DIRECTV. That's a fortune to spend on a satellite-only company at a time when the pay-TV industry is stagnating and broadband is growing.
“For the amount of money and debt AT&T and Comcast are collectively shelling out for their respective mega-deals, they could deploy super-fast gigabit-fiber broadband service to every single home in America. But these companies don’t care about providing better services or even connecting more Americans. It's about eliminating the last shred of competition in a communications sector that's already dominated by too few players.
“Wall Street deserves much of the blame for rewarding acquisitions instead of investments in infrastructure. Weakened antitrust enforcement hasn't helped. But this merger wave is also a result of more than a decade of shortsighted FCC policies that have encouraged consolidation over competition. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — who has stated his mantra is competition, competition, competition — has the power to block these wasteful and anti-competitive deals. And he should use it.”