As the government leans more toward deregulation under the Donald Trump administration, AT&T seems poised to close a Time Warner takeover deal. Democrats in the U.S. Senate, however, could still prove to be its undoing.
Benefit To The Public
Recently, 13 of them led by senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders declared that AT&T must issue a public interest statement by Feb. 17. This has to be submitted to the Senate and should detail how it plans to ensure that the deal will be beneficial to consumers and the public interest.
The Democrats' position stems from concerns that the transaction could lead to a more dominant company, powerful enough to demolish competition, harming consumers in the process.
It also came on the heels of AT&T's recent pronouncement that it will be bypassing an FCC review and would merely subject itself under Justice Department scrutiny. The company has repeatedly clashed with the regulatory body in the past. There were instances, for example, when it was slapped with hefty fines for its business practices.
At this point, it is not yet clear if the recent change in the FCC composition will have an impact on this relationship. Ajit Pai, its newly appointed chairman, has been a vocal supporter of free market and minimal regulation.
Donald Trump On The AT&T-Time Warner Deal
One should also note that Donald Trump has previously opposed the merger but has recently adopted a more benign position.
"I have been on the record in the past of saying it's too big and we have to keep competition," Trump said in an Axios interview. "So, but other than that, I haven't, you know, I haven't seen any of the facts, yet."
That statement was made after Trump met with Randall Stephenson, AT&T's CEO. While Trump's camp claimed that the merger was not included in the agenda, Stephenson claimed to have left the meeting optimistic.
Regarding the Democrats' move, AT&T seems willing to go along the ride. The company stressed that it will be pleased to answer any question about the merger and promptly stressed how it is following all legal requirements entailed in the process.
"It will disrupt the traditional entertainment model and push the boundaries on mobile content availability for the benefit of customers," AT&T said in a statement. "And it will deliver more innovation with new forms of original content built for mobile and social, which builds on Time Warner's HBO Now and the upcoming launch of AT&T's OTT offering DirecTV Now."