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The US Week Ahead: AT&T-Time Warner deal spotlighted as shutdown lingers


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The US Week Ahead: AT&T-Time Warner deal spotlighted as shutdown lingers

The partial federal government shutdown continues to drag on into this week. The funding lapse is increasingly having an impact on the technology, media and telecommunications industries.

Funding for federal courts is set to expire on Jan. 18. Among the cases under consideration by the federal courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is hearing the U.S. Department of Justice’s appeal to the AT&T Inc./Time Warner Inc. merger.

Oral arguments for the case were heard in December 2018, with the appeals court panel casting a skeptical eye on the DOJ's argument that a lower court judge made a "clear error."

In the event that funds do expire, work pertaining to "the resolution of cases and related services" is expected to continue. However, an announcement on the website for the D.C. Circuit says that the courts face serious disruptions in the event funding is exhausted.

Funding for the courts was previously set to expire on Jan. 11, but the court was able to extend funding for an additional week by re-obligating funds not immediately needed.

When asked about the government's appeal to the merger in December 2018, ahead of the shutdown, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that he expects a decision to be made early in 2019 in AT&T's favor.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, will hold confirmation hearings from Jan. 15-16 for the nomination of William Barr to be the next U.S. attorney general. Barr previously was attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993 and is currently of counsel at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP in its Washington, D.C., office.

Barr has an extensive background in telecommunications and on mergers within the industry. He was general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon Communications Inc. from 2000 to 2008. Barr also previously served on the board of Time Warner, which caught the attention of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that focuses on antitrust.

In a Jan. 11 statement, Klobuchar announced that she had received a commitment from Barr to recuse himself from the DOJ’s appeal to the AT&T-Time Warner merger if he is confirmed. Klobuchar said that Barr's vow to recuse himself is necessary for the DOJ to complete an unbiased review of the proposed merger.

Finally, at the state level, the California Public Utilities Commission is set to hold three days of public forums from Jan. 15-17 to hear public feedback on the proposed transfer of Sprint Corp.s wireline and wireless subsidiaries. Sprint filed an application with the commission seeking approval of the transfer in July 2018.

The commission's notice on the forums says that no official action will be taken on the applications at the forums, but the pending application is one of the regulatory hurdles remaining in the proposed deal between Sprint and T-Mobile US Inc.

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Federal and state government
Jan. 15-16

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General of the U.S.

Jan. 15-17

The California Public Utilities Commission will hold public forums on the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile merger in Fresno, Calif., Los Angeles and San Diego.

Jan. 18

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will speak at LibertyCon, a libertarian political conference in Washington, D.C., about net neutrality.

Industry and think tank events
Jan. 16 Next Century Cities, a charity that seeks to expand broadband access, is releasing a guide for communities that are seeking strategies to connect residents to broadband.
Jan. 16 Silicon Flatirons, a center for innovation at the University of Colorado Boulder, will host a conference titled "The Future of Technology Transfer" in Boulder, Colo.
Jan. 17 The Public Technology Institute and National Association of State Chief Information Officers will hold a webinar titled "Technology Forecast 2019: What State and Local Government Technology Officials Can Expect."

Stories of note:

Analysis: Prolonged government shutdown could delay IPOs, worsen backlog for SEC

As wireless operators squabble over 'real' 5G, cable skips ahead to 10G speeds

Analysis: Big tech no longer certain bet in 2019

CES 2019: Tech policy execs call for privacy, infrastructure reform to boost 5G

T-Mobile, AT&T cut ties to company accused of improperly selling customer data

CES 2019: Technology-specific privacy laws become obsolete fast, warns AT&T exec