Merger critics warn of rural DBS monopoly

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The country's largest rural satellite-TV provider and the National
Association of Broadcasters Monday called on the Federal Communications
Commission to reject EchoStar Communications Corp.'s planned $26.8 billion
acquisition of DirecTV Inc.

The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, which provides
direct-broadcast satellite equipment and DirecTV programming to more than 1.8
million subscribers, complained that the deal would create a monopoly in pay TV
and broadband Internet services in the many rural communities lacking access to
cable TV or high-speed telephone links to the Internet.

The NRTC also dismissed EchoStar's assertion that the addition of DirecTV's
spectrum will allow carriage of more local TV channels.

At best, only the top 100 markets would have local TV access, leaving more
than one-half of the nation's 210 markets without satellite-delivered local TV,
the NRTC said.

The NAB took a similar position, predicting that the merger would cost
consumers $3 billion over the next five years.

The NAB said EchoStar's plan to impose a nationwide uniform-pricing plan
'would not work and would be a giant step back from the sensible commitment to
competition, rather than regulation, as the engine of progress.'

The real purpose of EchoStar's pricing plan is to 'fix' an admitted creation
of a rural monopoly, the NAB said.

The Consumers Union and other public-advocacy groups, however, endorsed the
pricing plan as a way to bring 'meaningful price competition' to cable in
smaller markets.

Absent the price controls and other conditions, the CU urged regulators to
reject the deal.

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