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AT&T-Time Warner Merger Won't Bring Change For Pittsburgh Consumers, But Net Neutrality Repeal Could

Richard Drew
The logos for Time Warner and AT&T appear above alternate trading posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A federal judge has approved the $85 billion mega-merger of the companies.

The $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner moved one step closer Tuesday after a federal judge ruled in favor of the two companies in an antitrust suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The move probably won't affect many Pittsburgh customers, since Comcast and Verizon serve most of the area, according to Carnegie Mellon University information systems professor Rahul Telang, butthe recent repeal of net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission could.

Net neutrality required internet service providers to protect access to all online content equally. Without that oversight, Telang said providers can now alter the rate at which consumers access the web depending on where their content comes from.

“Now there is a possibility that these companies will start favoring their own content at the cost of somebody else,” Telang said.

Many major ISPs insist they have no plans for ‘paid prioritization,’ but Telang said he believes cable companies now have plenty of incentive. The merger gives AT&T control over Time Warner’s assets, which include CNN, HBO The CW and Warner Bros., and may help them compete with online streaming services like Amazon and Netflix.

“AT&T is the sort of cable provider that has the pipe," Telang said. "Time Warner has the content.”

AT&T general counsel David McAtee said in a statement the company is pleased with the decision, which should occur before June 20.

Jakob Lazzaro is a digital producer at WESA and WYEP. He comes to Pittsburgh from South Bend, Ind., where he worked as the senior reporter and assignment editor at WVPE and had fun on-air hosting local All Things Considered two days a week, but he first got to know this area in 2018 as an intern at WESA (and is excited to be back). He graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 and has also previously reported for CalMatters and written NPR's Source of the Week email newsletter.