by Bob Duff and Derek Slap
We were pleased to see that Connecticut joined 21 other Democratic Attorneys General in the lawsuit to halt the Trump Administration Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to repeal net neutrality provisions. In addition, we proposed Senate Bill 2, An Act Concerning Internet Service Providers and Net Neutrality Principles, which would require internet service providers to abide by consumer friendly principles. We hope both efforts are successful and help protect Net Neutrality in Connecticut.
There is another pending matter that could have disastrous consequences in the absence of net neutrality: the proposed acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T. The Trump Department of Justice is suing to block the proposed merger. Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. This appears to be the case here. President Trump’s well-known animus against CNN has fueled his opposition to the deal. Many people are speculating that DOJ is suing to block the merger to curry favor with the President.
It is impossible to assess the AT&T / Time Warner merger without taking into consideration the impact that the Trump Administration FCC’s proposed net neutrality rollback would have. AT&T is the third-largest broadband provider in the United States, with 15.7 million subscribers. And they own DirecTV, by far the largest satellite television provider, with over 20 million subscribers. If the Trump Administration is successful in fully implementing its net neutrality repeal, but is unsuccessful in blocking the AT&T / Time Warner merger, it would create a nightmare scenario for consumers.
There would be nothing to stop AT&T or its subsidiaries from placing streaming content it controls – properties which would include HBO, the sporting events broadcast on Turner Sports, which include the NBA, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the Major League Baseball Playoffs, and the entire Warner Brothers film catalog – in a fast lane, or from slowing down delivery of content they don’t own to their subscribers.
In addition to the multi-state lawsuit to block the Trump Administration’s net neutrality repeal, we also believe Connecticut, under the leadership of Attorney General George Jepsen and Elin Katz of the Office of Consumer Counsel, should initiate an investigation and consider filing a separate suit to block the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner on behalf of consumers.
We need the answers to important questions regarding how a mega-merger could manipulate the internet and should do whatever we can to protect Connecticut consumers. We should not be afraid to lead this fight.
Representative Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) is the Vice-Chair of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) is the Senate Majority Leader.