AT&T-DirecTV Bid Said to Advance as FCC Asks More Web Access

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AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of DirecTV advanced as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission recommended approval while demanding the combined company do more to spread broadband, two people said.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asked fellow commissioners Tuesday to approve the $48.5 billion deal proposed last year, signaling a decisive vote in coming days, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the action hasn’t been made public.

Wheeler’s recommendation needs approval from the five-member agency where he leads a Democratic majority.

In return for approval, Wheeler demanded AT&T agree to build more fast Internet lines to homes and offer broadband at an affordable price, said an FCC official briefed on the matter.

The chairman also wants AT&T to submit reports outlining how it handles data from online companies, including those that supply video competing with its U-verse television offerings, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details aren’t public.

The FCC could vote for approval late this week or early next week, and AT&T could quickly close the deal, Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst with New Street Research LLC, said in a note Tuesday. Chaplin called the action “a modest positive catalyst for AT&T.”

Kim Hart, a FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment on the chairman’s actions.

Justice Department

Earlier this month, the Justice Department concluded it could clear the merger that would create the biggest U.S. pay-TV company.

Web video leader Netflix Inc. and Dish Network Corp. told regulators the merger would give AT&T increased incentive to thwart online rivals in order to protect its investment in programming at DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite TV provider.

The purchase would add 33 million TV subscribers, including 12.5 million in Latin America, to largest U.S. telephone company AT&T. The Dallas-based company would have 26 million U.S. video customers. Cable leader Comcast Corp. has 22 million video subscribers.

Fletcher Cook, an AT&T spokesman, and Robert Mercer, a DirecTV spokesman, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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