Dish and Cogent Tell U.S. to Keep AT&T From Thwarting Web Video

AT&T Inc. should be required to offer customers standalone broadband, without any obligation to buy entertainment packages, once the phone company buys DirecTV, critics of the acquisition said.

AT&T also should be restricted from charging for accepting Web traffic, Dish Network Corp. and Cogent Communications Holdings Inc. told Federal Communications Commission staff at a meeting, according to a May 12 filing posted Wednesday on the agency’s website. Dish offers programming via broadband, and Cogent handles Web traffic for companies including Netflix Inc.

Cogent and Netflix earlier asked for behavioral requirements, or conditions, to be imposed on the company to emerge from the $48.5 billion combination of the biggest U.S. telephone and satellite-TV providers. Cogent and Dish say AT&T would gain an incentive to thwart other video once it acquires DirecTV’s programming; AT&T says it has no wish to do so because that would drive away customers.

The meeting with Dish and Cogent, held May 8, shows requests to ensure the Web video market isn’t harmed by the merger are reaching the agency’s highest levels, since participants included FCC General Counsel Jonathan Sallet and Jim Bird, head of a team that examines transactions. Review of the merger proposed last year could be nearing its end; AT&T predicts the deal will close during the current quarter.

Policy groups Free Press and Public Knowledge also participated in the meeting, according to the filing. The groups, Cogent, and Netflix also asked that AT&T be required to follow the FCC’s net neutrality rules for seven years regardless of whether opponents of the rules succeed in court.

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.

Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, didn’t immediately supply a comment.

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