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Cogent doesn’t trust AT&T despite recent interconnection agreement

Shades of Netflix and Comcast. Cogent, having just signed an interconnection agreement with AT&T, has now gone to the Federal Communications Commission reiterating its demand that the commission impose a condition on the AT&T-DirecTV merger.

In the filing released by the FCC on Thursday, Cogent asks the agency “ensure that other Internet networks or edge providers of substantial scale that are willing to exchange traffic with AT&T … can do so without having to pay a fee to access AT&T’s customers, who already pay for Internet access.”

The proposed condition would also require the combined AT&T-DirecTV to make sure interconnections do not become congested once established.

Echoing the “I-really-didn’t-mean-it” statements of Netflix and its CEO Reed Hastings which quickly repudiated the lovey-dovey press release Netflix and Comcast issued celebrating their pre-merger interconnection deal, the Cogent ex-parte spells out the deep ambivalence Cogent feels for its recent deal with AT&T.

“While the Cogent/AT&T agreement, during its effective term, provides a reprieve for congestion as between these two networks, it does not—indeed, it cannot—provide the type of systemic assurance of unimpeded broadband Internet access that the proposed condition would,” the company wrote.

Cogent believes that once AT&T acquires DirecTV, the combined company will have a strong incentive to protect DirecTV’s pay television business from competitive inroads made by current and emerging over-the-top video services.

Cogent originally proposed the interconnection condition to the FCC in a May 12, 2015 ex parte.  The condition was reiterated by COMPTEL in a June 25, 2015 ex parte.

The FCC’s open internet order said that the commission would look at interconnection agreements on a “case-by-case” basis.

Wall Street analyst Jennifer M. Fritzsche of Wells Fargo told investors in May that an interconnection agreement between AT&T and Cogent “…is a large area of focus for the FCC and could be an important box for AT&T to check to help complete its merger with DirecTV.”

AT&T has been signing a number of interconnection agreements during the FCC’s review of its proposed merger with DirecTV, including with GTT and Level 3.  Ironically, AT&T signed an interconnection agreement with Netflix in July 2014.