How two decisions in Washington could turn AT&T into a uniquely powerful company

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The future of AT&T could be shaped by two big decisions in Washington, with the Justice Department suing the company to block its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner and the Federal Communications Commission announcing a plan to roll back net neutrality rules, handing a big win to Internet providers. Some analysts said the combined actions could deliver a double-victory for AT&T. If it wins its antitrust case against the DOJ, AT&T could buy Time Warner without offering any concessions to the government. It could then benefit from the repeal of the government's net neutrality rules, allowing it to leverage Time Warner's massive library of shows, television stations and films like few other companies. That scenario could turn AT&T into a uniquely powerful force spanning the entertainment and telecommunications industries. Several analysts said the roll-back of net neutrality rules under a Republican-led FCC is surely good for AT&T, but they are divided on exactly how the repeal will impact the company. Some argued that the loosened regulations would allow AT&T to market Time Warner's content in new and different ways that could theoretically help Americans. Others argue that the combination of a bigger AT&T with a more relaxed regulatory environment could simply increase the firm's incentives to harm competitors in the marketplace. Still others say AT&T wouldn't dare use its newfound size to take unfair advantage of the relaxed regulations, partly because it could provoke a backlash from policymakers and customers. Some Wall Street analysts said that the strong net neutrality rules passed by the Obama-era FCC left Internet providers spooked. Those companies will now be cautious to do anything that could lead to the restoration of the rules, said Craig Moffett, an industry analyst at MoffettNathanson.


How two decisions in Washington could turn AT&T into a uniquely powerful company