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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, CEOs Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee about the proposed $107 billion merger of their two communications companies.

The deal would bring together one of the nation’s largest phone and internet providers with an entertainment media colossus that includes CNN, HBO, TBS, TNT and Warner Brothers studios, among other properties. Soon after the deal was announced in October, then-candidate Trump offered the uncharacteristic pledge that as president he’d reject the deal “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

Last month, 18 digital rights, social justice and consumer advocacy groups representing tens of millions of people, including Free Press, urged the next president to oppose the proposed merger and take a stand against growing monopoly power in America.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Washington should take notice on the rare occasion when Wall Street analysts, presidential candidates and consumer advocates agree: This bloated and wasteful merger makes no sense. It would create a communications giant with a market value of approximately $300 billion. The merged entity would be so debt-laden that it would have to gouge consumers and cut back on services to pay the banks that helped structure this rotten deal.

“In addition to AT&T/Time Warner’s massive footprint and outsized stake in the national mobile and wired broadband markets, the monolith would control much of what people see online once they get connected. The deal would allow the merged company to give unfair advantages to both its programming and distribution services, to the detriment of competition, independent voices and internet users.

“Big mergers like this inevitably lead to higher prices for real people, to pay down the billions of dollars borrowed to finance these deals. We’ve recently seen some positive signs that lawmakers and antitrust enforcers are interested in addressing this merger mania. Whether they hold to earlier promises to oppose this deal remains to be seen.

“This merger amplifies the lobbying and political power of AT&T. It forces the sometimes divergent interests of media and telecommunications services under AT&T's control to march in lockstep to the same tune. Far from helping drain the swamp, this merger further entrenches corporate power in Washington.

“It’s also a good thing we still have Net Neutrality rules on the books — though the incoming administration has indicated, rather incoherently, that it opposes these essential protections for internet users. In the absence of strong antitrust enforcement and nondiscrimination rules, we know how AT&T will use acquisitions like this. It’ll deny programming to other distributors and favor its own content — slashing its own costs, but without passing any of those savings along to its customers.

“This is a bad deal for our economy and everyone in our country besides the shareholders of AT&T and Time Warner. It must be blocked. That process starts today: Lawmakers need to see through the empty promises of Stephenson and Bewkes, who want to trample on Americans’ communication rights for their own benefit.”

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