AT&T, Comcast Offer Choice to Broadband Users

To encourage federal regulators to approve Comcast's merger with AT&T Broadband, the two companies announced late last week that they will open up the service to third-party ISPs, giving consumers choices and, possibly, lower prices. (The AT&T Broadband/Comcast merger recently entered its public-comment period, during which federal regulators review feedback about the deal to determine whether it's in the public interest.)

"AT&T Comcast is fully committed to negotiating mutually beneficial service agreements with Internet service providers so that its cable customers will have a choice of ISPs," the companies said in a joint statement. "Each applicant is actively (and independently) negotiating to reach commercial agreements with unaffiliated ISPs." The companies touted a recent deal with Earthlink as an example of this practice.

The announcement eliminates a major concern about the merger, which would create one of the largest broadband powerhouses in the industry. Regulators pushed through a similar merger between AOL and Time Warner when those companies offered a similar concession regarding third-party ISPs.

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