Rule #1 of AT&T:

AT&T will lie and f%$# with consumers, regulators, and judges.

Rule number 2 is see rule 1.

Case in point, after getting a federal judge to rule in their favor, because he saw no downside to end users, (an unnecessarily narrow view that has been promulgated by the right wing fof decades) AT&T promptly raised rates on users.

It comes as no surprise then, that the government ignored Judge Leon’s recommendation not to appeal, and file an appeal anyway:

AT&T recently defeated the DOJ’s challenge to their $86 billion merger with Time Warner thanks to a comically narrow reading of the markets by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. At no point in his 172-page ruling (which approved the deal without a single condition) did Leon show the faintest understanding that AT&T intends to use vertical integration synergistically with the death of net neutrality to dominate smaller competitors. In fact, net neutrality was never even mentioned at the multi-week trial.

The trial did a wonderful job showing how modern antitrust law does a dismal job policing companies that dominate both the conduit to the home (wireless, wired connection) and the content running over it. And shortly after Leon signed off on the deal, AT&T got right work… being AT&T.

The company had made repeated promises before, during and after the trial that the merger would only result in price reductions and other wonderful things for consumers. But with the ink barely dry on the deal, AT&T quickly began raising rates on its streaming video services, eliminating promo offers providing free HBO to its wireless customers, jacking up the price of the company’s unlimited data wireless plans, and imposing bogus new fees on those same subscribers. Most of these moves were expected as AT&T tries to recoup some of the monumental debt incurred by its endless quest to grow ever larger.

Initially, the DOJ stated it wouldn’t appeal its court loss, even though Leon’s myopic ruling opened the door to the idea. But the DOJ clearly sees something in AT&T’s recent moves that gives it additional ammunition for another shot at the merger, so it’s appealing the judge’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit according to a DOJ filing (pdf).

Leon’s ruling essentially said that there had to be a showing of direct and immediate harm to consumers for the merger to be stopped, which ignores issues such as the political effects of market dominance and barriers to entry, which figured far more prominently in the legislative intent of the Sherman Antitrust Act when it was passed over 125 years ago.

In fact, the idea of consumer well being wasn’t even a concept at the time the law was passed.

The consumer harm standard is a fig leaf first pushed by Robert Bork over 40 years ago in order to gut antitrust enforcement.

Leave a Reply