"The merger will result in a much broader, rural wireless footprint," Andreessen wrote, "as well as deeper fiber penetration."
It's an argument that could resonate with the FCC, which has actively looked for ways to press for more broadband. In places that are poorly served by Internet providers, for example, the agency wants to help cities build their own high-speed data networks. Its net neutrality efforts are predicated on the idea of a "virtuous circle" of investment and rising demand for Internet applications.
Andreessen clearly thinks the AT&T-DirecTV deal is consistent with those interests. But consumer advocates warn that it isn't so simple. Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust official who's now chief executive of the public-interest group Public Knowledge, said Andreessen skips over the potential harms stemming from the deal — such as the possibility that in places where AT&T and DirecTV compete head-to-head, prices could rise.
"I don't see this as a deal that can't be fixed" through conditions imposed on the merger, said Kimmelman, "but I certainly see it as a transaction that has competitive concerns that are disregarded in Marc's letter."
The thrust of Andreessen's letter closely resembles an argument he made in an interview with The Washington Post in May: That in the long run, competition across multiple broadband-providing industries — traditional phone companies fighting with wireless carriers fighting with cable providers fighting with the likes of Google Fiber, for example — may be enough to address the lack of competition within particular industries.