With FCC chair Kevin Martin unable to push through an approval for the AT&T BellSouth merger due to an (no, seriously, don't laugh) ethical stance from a fellow commissioner, it looks like AT&T needed to go back to the bargaining table. With rumors swirling that a deal would be wrapped up by the end of the week, AT&T has apparently told the FCC that it will commit to adhere to network neutrality rules while guaranteeing low-cost DSL access for at least 30 months after the merger. In essence, this is a punt move to get approval for the deal. With no network neutrality legislation being passed by Congress this year, it has the potential to come up again next year, with Democrats slightly more likely to enforce net neutrality rules -- in which case this concession would be pretty much meaningless anyway. At the same time, AT&T probably recognizes that a lot can change in the next two and a half years, and if they're serious about breaking network neutrality, they wouldn't be likely to do so in any big way for at least a little while anyway. Right now, they're more focused on building out their network, and the whole idea of breaking network neutrality would probably be shelved for a year or two anyway. This should allow the deal to go through, but we're sure this won't be the end of the whole network neutrality debate (by a long shot). Update: The details are beginning to filter out. Among the surprises: the cheap DSL would be naked DSL (no phone service required) for $19.95. That certainly beats their old offering that made naked DSL just as expensive as if you bundled a useless phone line, around $45. There are also additional promises about creating new jobs in the US and getting rid of some overlapping wireless licenses. Update 2: We've got another post up that looks at some of the fine print suggesting maybe the concessions aren't very big concessions after all.
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