The merger was announced in late 2016, but has been challenged in by the Department of Justice last November. On Tuesday, US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled against the government, allowing the deal worth an estimated $85 billion to go ahead.
AT&T argued the acquisition would enable the company to reinvent itself in the age of streaming media, delivering television content to cell phones and other mobile devices. With the data it gathers from the devices, including computers and smart TVs, AT&T also plans to build a targeted advertising empire, according to the Washington Post.
This is precisely the kind of nightmare scenario advocates of Net Neutrality pointed to in alarm, with internet providers being in position to prioritize their own content and throttle that of rival companies. Net Neutrality regulations imposed by the Obama administration in 2015 were overturned by the FCC in December. That ruling went into effect on Monday.
The acquisition is also expected to trigger an avalanche of other mergers and takeovers. Cell service providers T-Mobile and Sprint have already announced the intent to merge. Comcast (which owns NBC) and Disney (owners of ABC) are poised for a bidding war over cable networks, film and TV studios of 21st Century Fox. That deal would exclude Fox News, however.