Red-Letter Days for Telecom Policy

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The summit with North Korea planned for June 12 may be off (at least at press time) but that week will still be a big one in Washington, potentially determining how media companies will be treated inside the Beltway.

June 11 is when the Federal Communications Commission’s new network neutrality regulatory rollback goes into effect, with the Federal Trade Commission responsible for keeping tabs on how internet service providers manage their networks. That hinges on the FCC’s new transparency rule that requires broadband providers to disclose their network management practices to the FCC so that the FTC can then determine if that conduct is anticompetitive, false or deceptive.

The FCC has a new transparency “portal” ISPs can use if they don’t want to post that information on their own websites. Required are “network management practices, performance characteristics and commercial terms” of such service “sufficient to enable consumers to make informed choices regarding the purchase and use of such services and entrepreneurs and other small businesses to develop, market and maintain internet offerings.”

That presupposes there are competitive choices, which ISPs say there are in abundance and net neutrality activists say “not so much.”

June 12 could be another big day. That day, the judge in the AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit has said he plans to rule on whether the Justice Department is right and the merger — without a spinoff of either DirecTV or Turner programming assets — violates antitrust laws, or if, as the companies argue, the meld is not likely to substantially lessen competition, raise prices for consumers, result in coordination with Comcast/NBCUniversal to hurt OTT providers, result in withholding HBO from competitors or otherwise prove a violation of antitrust that requires remedying.

A victory for AT&T-Time Warner, as many expect, means the deal will close within days: there is a June 21 breakup date. The climate will also brighten for vertical mergers, or deals that combine content with distribution.

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