AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson believes the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger will get past federal regulators.
"Our studying of this is that it probably gets done," Stephenson said at an investor conference Thursday. "It's probably going to have some hair on the transaction in terms of conditions."
Stephenson said AT&T has been paying close attention to the "industry-redefining deal" and that the potential merger made his telecommunication company's rollout of its network infrastructure upgrade, first launched in 2012, more urgent. Those redoubled efforts include escalating its push of a high-speed fiber-optic network; he officially announced that Dallas is next in line after Austin to earn the gigabit offering.
Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced a $45 billion merger last month that would combine the first- and second-largest cable providers if it passes federal scrutiny. A combined Comcast-Time Warner would reach 80 percent of U.S. households and integrate cable service with content production, according to Stephenson.
The AT&T chairman and CEO also touched on two other hot topics at Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media, and Telecom conference in San Francisco: net neutrality and spectrum auctions.
He said the January federal court ruling overturning the Federal Communication Commission's rules on net neutrality — the principle that Internet providers should not be able be able to charge websites for faster speeds — will likely not change how Internet providers do business because it is in their interest to self-regulate.
"If we go into a detailed Title II type rule-making, that's going to be a long, laborious process and it will be good for nobody in the industry," Stephenson said, referring to the FCC's option to reclassify the Internet from an information service to a common carrier.
According to Stephenson, the FCC will have its hands full enough with the broadcast spectrum auction, slated for 2015, that aims to reallocate spectrum licenses from broadcasters to wireless providers. This auction will give wireless providers the opportunity to acquire additional bandwidth to keep up with the data surge brought on by the explosion in video streaming.
"This one is no lay-up, in terms of execution, for anybody," he said.