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Will the AT&T Merger Lower Prices?

By Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan) with help from Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ), Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso), and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: Both the House and Senate will examine AT&T's planned purchase of DirecTV in a pair of hearings today. The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee struck a deal on a cell-phone unlocking bill. Mayors around the country want the FCC to protect net neutrality, and teachers are disappointed with the FCC's plan for technology funding in schools.



CEOS TO DEFEND DEAL: AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and DirecTV CEO Michael White will argue today that their merger would provide consumers with the bundles of services they want and allow the companies to build out high-speed Internet service in rural areas. Stephenson will say the merger would allow the companies to price their services "more competitively," driving down prices across the industry.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is skeptical. "I appreciate the appeal of lower costs to the company and its shareholders, but it is unclear whether this potentially significant savings will be passed along to consumers," Leahy will say in his opening statement.


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will say regulators should ensure that "proposed transactions result in enhanced competitive marketplaces so that the attendant benefits continue to run to consumers."

Ross Lieberman of the American Cable Association will call for conditions to prevent DirecTV-affiliated programmers from charging rivals more. Public Knowledge's John Bergmayer will argue that regulators should block the deal outright.

CELL PHONE UNLOCKING RETURNS IN SENATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans to take up legislation on Thursday that would legalize cell-phone unlocking—though a postponement until the next meeting appears likely. The new language (here's a one-page summary) was introduced with support from Chairman Patrick Leahy and the Sen. Chuck Grassley, the panel's top Republican, and follows House passage earlier this year of a similar measure that allows consumers to switch providers without forcing them to buy a new phone. (Sasso, NJ)

IS THE BULK UNLOCKING PROVISION DEAD?: The Senate bill doesn't include contentious language added in the 11th hour to the House version that would bar unlocking phones in large batches, which the wireless industry lobbied hard for on grounds it would prevent "large-scale" theft schemes. House Judiciary leaders applauded the Leahy-Grassley compromise, and said the bill "expresses Congress' intent to resolve the bulk unlocking issue by moving it to report language accompanying the bill."


MAYORS BACK NET NEUTRALITY: By a strong voice vote, the U.S. Conference of Mayors backed a net-neutrality resolution Monday that condemns "fast lanes" as anathema to the core values of the Internet. The conference voted during its annual meeting for language (visible on page 255) that "supports comprehensive nondiscrimination as a key principle for any FCC rulemaking" and urges Congress to "use their lawmaking power to enshrine access to a free and open Internet and give the FCC a clear mandate." The resolution also backs FCC efforts to overturn state laws that bar municipal broadband.

SCOTUS STILL MUM ON TECH RULINGS: Monday came and went without any decision from the Supremes on Aereo or police searches of cell phones during arrest. The Court will release its next round of opinions Wednesday at 10 a.m. Barring that, look for Thursday morning or next Monday, the last day scheduled for new decisions.


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E-RATE PLAN DISAPPOINTS TEACHERS: The FCC should expand the size of its E-Rate program, education groups argue. (Sasso/ Ryan, NJ)

RUSSIA WANTS TWITTER TO BLOCK A DOZEN 'EXTREMIST' ACCOUNTS: The Kremlin continues to deny it censors the media or the Internet. (Reuters)

FCC HIRES FIRM TO PITCH BROADCASTERS ON INCENTIVE AUCTION: Greenhill & Co., an investment banking firm, will develop material to help sell broadcasters on the benefits of bidding in the auction, which will take place next year. (Doug Halonen, TVNewsCheck)

GOOGLE TAKES ITS LOBBYING EFFORTS TO THE STATES: While lobbying the federal government, Google is also focusing its efforts on state and city governments—seeking to create a favorable environment to test and roll out products like self-driving cars and Glass. (Tony Romm, Politico)

300K SITES STILL LACK HEARTBLEED PATCH: A new report says more than 300,000 sites still haven't been updated to protect against the security vulnerability detected in April—more than half of the sites originally at risk. (Lily Hay Newman, Slate)

GOOGLE TESTING DOMAIN REGISTRATION SERVICE: Google is working on a service to allow small businesses to buy and transfer domains (Josh Ong, The Next Web)

MICROSOFT BETS ON QUANTUM COMPUTERS: Microsoft scientists are working on new supercomputers that they hope can solve problems in fields like chemistry, artificial intelligence and code-breaking. (John Markoff, NYT)

FRANCE WHINES ABOUT .WINE: France says the new domain names .wine and .vin could undermine agreements about geographical labels. (Hugh Carnegy, FT)

SPRINT OFFERS FREE TRIALS: Following in T-Mobile's footsteps, Sprint will allow new customers to drop its service in 30 days and get their money back. (Scott Moritz, Bloomberg)

HOW AMERICA SAYS GIF: Fifty-four percent of folks prefer the hard "G"; no one knows how to pronounce "meme" and hashtags have everyone divided—a look at the language divide over tech terms. (Megan Garber, The Atlantic)

WHAT EVERYONE GETS WRONG ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY: "The net neutrality debate has got many facets to it, and most of the points of the debate are artificial, distracting, and based on an incorrect mental model on how the internet works." (Robert McMillan, Wired)


  • Congress will scrutinize the proposed AT&T-DirecTV merger during back-to-back hearings in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law at 10 a.m. and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights at 2:30 p.m. AT&T President and CEO Randall Stephenson and DirecTV President and CEO Michael White will testify at both hearings.

  • Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Adam Schiff and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Sheldon Whitehouse will unveil their annual list of countries with the worst intellectual property protections at 9:30 a.m.

  • The House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on digital healthcare at 10 a.m., with testimony from 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki.

  • The House Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Trade Secrets: Promoting and Protecting American Innovation, Competitiveness, and Market Access in Foreign Markets" at 1:30 p.m.

  • Politico Pro will host an event on cyber threats to financial markets at 8 a.m.

  • The Brookings Institution will host Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel for a discussion on "The Future of Global Technology, Privacy, and Regulation," at 10 a.m.

  • NTIA will hold another facial recognition stakeholder meeting at 1 p.m.

  • FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, Commissioner Ajit Pai's chief of staff Matthew Berry, and AT&T's Robert Quinn will join the Phoenix Center for a rooftop roundtable on the FCC's authority over broadband providers at 6 p.m.

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I read the Tech Edge every morning."

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