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AT&T’s latest sweetener to regulators: a low-priced broadband service

When AT&T announced its $48.5 billion deal to acquire DirecTV, it threw in a few concessions for regulators to make the deal more palatable. Now, it’s adding to that list, agreeing to offer a  lower-priced standalone broadband service for lower-income households. If you’d like to save money on your broadband you can get some great broadband deals from usave.

AT&T came back with the concession after a meeting with FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who made the suggestion in a meeting in late June, according to an FCC ex parte filed July 1. The filing was first reported by the Washington Post.

AT&T proposed to make the service available to consumers in its wireline footprint for four years beginning a “reasonable time period after closing.”

The program is not unlike Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which was created around the same time Comcast going through regulatory review for its acquisition of NBCUniversal.

Depending on the broadband speeds available, AT&T’s service would offer low-income a broadband DSL service with speeds up to 5 megabits per second for $10 per month for the first year and rise to $20 per month. In areas where AT&T broadband speeds are below 5 Mbps, the service would be $5 per month, rising to $10 per month in the second year.

To qualify, consumers must be eligible for the government’s supplemental nutritional assistant program. They also can’t be current AT&T wireline broadband customers.

“The commission should promptly approve the transaction so that consumers can begin to enjoy the resulting pro-competitive, public interest benefits,” wrote Peter Schildkraut, counsel for AT&T.

Regulators are in the final stages of merger review and a decision could come any day. There’s been a lot of speculation about the conditions the Federal Communications Commission might attach to approval of the deal.

At the outset when the deal was announced, the company said it would comply with the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality rules for three years. (AT&T is challenging a big portion of the current FCC net neutrality order that reclassifies ISPs as common carrier.) The company also said it would offer a stand-alone broadband plan and expand rural broadband to about 13 million.