WASHINGTON - December 29 - In a letter of commitment filed with the Federal Communications Commission tonight, AT&T officials agreed to adhere to strict Network Neutrality and guarantee low-cost DSL access for 30 months if allowed to complete an $85 billion merger with BellSouth. Free Press, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America made the following statements:
Ben Scott, Policy Director, Free Press
"This mega-merger can't be stopped, but Commissioners Copps and Adelstein stood firm in the face of intense pressure to ensure a fair deal for the public that would protect the neutral and open Internet. Making Net Neutrality a condition of the largest merger in telecommunications history would set an important precedent. It will be up to the new Congress to craft a forward-looking broadband policy that will bring the benefits of the Internet to all Americans. For free speech, democratic participation and economic innovation to thrive online, Net Neutrality must be the law."
Gene Kimmelman, Vice President, Consumers Union
"This merger endangers long-term competition. But by making AT&T's high-speed Internet service available to consumers for less than $20 a month, the FCC could open the door for consumers to connect low-cost Internet telephone service to broadband and thereby pressure the market to keep delivering lower prices for all telecom services. And those consumers who cannot afford DSL today, or who cannot afford to pay AT&T's high package fees for combined Internet and phone service, might now be able to get fast connections to the Internet at a reasonable price."
Mark Cooper, Director of Research, Consumer Federation of America
"Until Commissioner McDowell decisively removed himself from participation, AT&T showed no interest in allowing Net Neutrality to be included in this deal. But, in the end, they will have to accept language in the merger conditions that protects the free and open Internet. This will be a win for the public. By holding AT&T's feet to the fire and demanding the Internet remain neutral, the FCC can maintain a level playing field for all. We'll continue to work next year in Congress to ensure that the essential, consumer and innovation-friendly characteristics of the Internet are preserved as truly high-speed broadband networks are deployed."