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Senate Democrats want AT&T to prove to them that the benefits of the $85 billion merger will outweigh any harms to consumers.

Why? Typically, this kind of merger goes through an FCC review, during which the merging companies demonstrate how the deal will serve the "public interest." In this case, AT&T and Time Warner have opted not to transfer spectrum licenses, thereby skirting the FCC's review process. So Senators including Bernie Sander, Ed Markey, Al Franken, Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahy and Cory Booker — who are generally skeptical of industry consolidation — are trying to fill that void. They said:

AT&T is already the world's largest pay-TV provider and the largest telecommunications company. Combining it with one of the world's largest producers of content gives AT&T-Time Warner both the incentive and the ability to use its platform to harm competitors, and as a result, consumers.

AT&T says: "The merger will create more competition for cable TV providers, giving consumers more options and accelerating next generation wireless broadband."

Of note: AT&T also said it's handing over "millions of documents" as part of the DoJ's antitrust review of the deal. However, most documents in that process aren't made public.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.