Ergen, Hartenstein defend deal

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The proposed merger between EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc.
parent Hughes Electronics Corp. will benefit rural customers, EchoStar chairman
Charlie Ergen and DirecTV chairman Eddy Hartenstein wrote Thursday to members of
the Congressional Rural Caucus.

'We believe the merger will enable the new company to offer even more
benefits to consumers in rural America than currently available,' Ergen and
Hartenstein wrote.

'For example, the efficiencies resulting from the merger will allow the
combined company to provide more than 100 metropolitan areas with their local
channels and at least one metropolitan area in each state with their local
broadcast channels delivered via satellite,' they added.

They continued, 'More high-definition TV programming and new interactive
services will also be available than would be possible without the merger. In
addition, the merger will create the economies of scale necessary to offer more
competitive prices for programming and to launch a competitively priced
high-speed Internet-access service in rural America, which helps to close the
digital divide.'

Nearly 90 members of the CRC signed letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft
and Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell Wednesday urging
them to 'rigorously scrutinize the proposed merger' and to 'attach appropriate
consumer protections.'

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