Sanders joins Trump in opposing AT&T/Time Warner merger


The deal is a 'gross concentration of power' that will reduce competition and diversity, he says

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders agree on one thing, and it has nothing to do with their opinion of Hillary Clinton -- they both want the Justice Department to block AT&T's proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner.

Trump announced his opposition almost before the deal was signed, telling a crowd in Gettysburg, Pa., last weekend that if he's elected, he will block the transaction.

Now Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says he agrees. In a letter to the Justice Department, Sanders says the deal "represents a gross concentration of power that runs counter to the public good." 

A statement put out by the Trump campaign said the deal “concentrates too much power in the hands of the too and powerful few.” Trump's statement went further and said “the very corporations that have gained from shipping America’s factories and jobs offshore are the very same media conglomerate now pushing Hillary Clinton’s agenda.”

“This proposed merger is just the latest effort to shrink our media landscape, stifle competition and diversity of content, and provide consumers with less while charging them more,” Sanders wrote in a letter to the head of the department’s antitrust division. “This merger represents a gross concentration of power that runs counter to the public good and should be blocked.”Sanders wrote

"A clear disincentive"

Sanders notes that AT&T is already a broadband and cable provider -- controlling huge chunks of program production and distribution -- and should not be allowed to further consolidate its power.

"When one giant company owns both the content and the means of distribution, there is a clear disincentive to provide additional choices to consumers," Sanders wrote. 

AT&T claims the merger will enable it to provide consumers with a "stronger competitive alternative" to cable companies, while also enabling it to offer marketers "more relevant and valuable addressable advertising."

But Sanders notes that AT&T already owns satellite provider DirecTV, an acquisition he says has already resulted in "increased anti-competitive behavior." The lawmaker points to AT&T's decision to exempt DirecTV from customers' data caps -- a move Sanders says is "arguably a violation of net neutrality principles."

The FCC does not currently have firm rules about data caps but has said it will investigate each case separately. 

Wireless wonderland

AT&T and Verizon are both gobbling up content providers and distribution channels, claiming they are each developing ultra-high-speed wireless broadband technologies -- so-called 5G -- that will bring more content and data capacity to consumers than ever before. 

Critics, including many engineers, say the 5G promises are overstated. Because of the extremely high frequencies used to transmit 5G, it will be necessary to build hundreds of new cell networks to cover the same area now managed by a single tower.

That, they say, makes it likely that service will be offered in densely populated urban areas long before it reaches rural regions, just as other technologies have been clustered in areas that already have adequate service, critics quoted in a recent New York Times article say.

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