By Marina Lopes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp urged the Federal Communications Commission to approve AT&T's Inc $48.5 billion bid for DirecTV, saying in a filing that the acquisition is crucial to expanding Americans' access to the internet.
The letter, which was dated Sept. 16 and released publicly on Thursday, comes as the FCC conducts a formal review of the merger. The commission is expected to reply to public comments on Oct. 16.
If the merger is approved, AT&T promises to expand its footprint to include an additional 13 million rural customers.
AT&T has to convince the FCC that the merger is in the public interest for the deal to be approved. The Justice Department can also move to block the deal if it finds it violates antitrust laws.
Earlier on Thursday, more than 90 former business partners of AT&T demanded that the FCC block the DirecTV bid, saying that AT&T engaged in anti-competitive behavior and violated fiduciary duty.
In a filing with the FCC, the partners operating under the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition, accuse AT&T of squelching competition and knowingly harming its business partners.
AT&T did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Leslie Adler)