AT&T technically stands for American Telephone and Telegraph, but now that the latter technology is obsolete and the former is becoming more anachronistic by the day, one can imagine a future where the company's mission is more fully spelled out as AT&T&T: American Telephone, and Tablet, and Television. Our phones are hardly phones, anymore. They are, like everything else we spend our days paying attention to, just glass with an Internet connection, as Zach Seward would put it. And AT&T would like to dominate the digital infrastructure behind all of it.
In this light, the company's plan to acquire DirecTV—the national (albeit somewhat stagnant) satellite TV provider—might be a little less mysterious than some people are making it. This isn't akin to Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two cable providers that sell TV and Internet merging to become one giant cable provider that sells TV and Internet. AT&T, a cellular broadband company with a tiny pay-TV footprint, doesn't expand its core business with this purchase. But that's okay. This isn't about adding spectrum. It's about adding glass, as I said today on NPR's Here & Now.