I'm of the belief that this should be in the "Good News/Bad News" category. The bad news is that it looks like the major obstacles blocking the merger of AT&T and BellSouth have been cleared, and history shows that these mergers do not benefits consumers. The good news is that one of those cleared obstacles has scored a victory for net neutrality and eliminated one of the anti-neutrality forces' biggest arguments.
In a striking victory for Internet freedom advocates, AT&T officials agreed on Thursday night to adhere to strict Network Neutrality conditions if allowed to complete their proposed $85 billion merger with BellSouth.
The phone company filed a "letter of commitment" with the Federal Communications Commission in which it promises to observe Net Neutrality principles for at least 24 months. Now it's left to Congress to follow the FCC's lead and make Net Neutrality permanent under the law.
[..]AT&T's concession followed more than a week of often pointed negotiations with the two Democrats on the commission, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. This was compounded by tens of thousands of letters from SavetheInternet.com and Free Press activists who demanded that the FCC allow no merger without Net Neutrality.
Approval of the merger by the full commission could come as early as Friday, according to an AP report. [Note: For more on AT&T's concession, read Professor Tim Wu's analyisis]
AT&T's agreement puts to rest their own executives' argument that Net Neutrality doesn't really exist. (Watch AT&T chief Ed Whitacre in action) The phone giant just committed to observing Net Neutrality and defined it in the text of its letter.
It also puts to rest the bogus argument that Net Neutrality will cripple the largest phone companies' plans to build out broadband services. AT&T agreed to this condition - and also to offer cheaper broadband services - and yet they continue to expand their networks and offer services to the tune of $24.5 billion in gross profits in 2006.
AT&T's agreement to these merger terms reduces to industry spin their argument that Net Neutrality and profit are mutually exclusive.