AT&T’s proposed $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV, the US satellite provider, got the backing of Microsoft in responses to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but the same deal was blasted by a lower profile group called the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition.
According to Reuters, Microsoft said in a filing that the deal would expand US consumers’ access to the internet. If it receives approval, AT&T has talked up how the takeover will lead to expanded coverage to an additional 13 million rural customers.
In contrast a group calling itself the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition is fiercely critical in its comments, claiming that AT&T has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and harmed business partners.
Reuters described the coalition as composed of “90 former business partners of AT&T”, although it does not appear to have a website or Twitter account.
AT&T needs approval from the FCC but also the Department of Justice, which will address any antitrust concerns.
Experts expect the deal will be approved but opponents have zeroed in on several aspects. One is lost competition in those one quarter of US homes where currently the operator competes with DirecTV.
Programme markers and smaller cable operators have voiced concerns that the new entity will wield too much power over the creation and distribution of content.
And other players have raised questions about AT&T’s commitment to expanded high-speed broadband coverage to rural homes, expressing concern about its increased market power. On the other hand, Microsoft is throwing its weight behind the same proposal, arguing it will spread internet access to more consumers.