AT&T's proposed $39 billion purchase of rival cellular company T-Mobile was at the center of a vortex of criticism and comment
Wednesday in advance of Thursday's hearing in the House Judiciary Committee
Prominent among those was a press conference featuring
Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.),
whose opposition to the deal was made clear last week at an FCC reform hearing
in the House Communications Subcommittee.
"It would be a historic mistake to approve the
AT&T-Mobile merger," Markey said flatly last week. On Wednesday he
teamed with Conyers to continue his criticism, joined by deal critics Public
Knowledge and Media Access Project, among others.
"The AT&T-T Mobile deal is like a
telecommunications time machine that would send consumers back to a bygone era
of high prices and limited choice," said Markey, according to his office.
Conyers had no encouraging words either. "I am concerned
that this merger is bad for consumers, bad for business, and bad for
innovation. We must do everything in our power to protect consumers,
small businesses and American workers. Mergers always eliminate more jobs
than they create. There is every likelihood that the proposed acquisition
of T-Mobile by AT&T could lead to both higher prices and decreased consumer
But the deal had some supporters as well. The New America
Foundation's Open Technology Initiative praised the pair for their criticism.
"We should not forget what happened the last time we had a single company
with such tremendous power in communications -- when your phone was literally
tethered to the wall and innovation was offering consumers a choice of two colors
for their rotary telephone," said senior policy analyst Benjamin Lennett.
Among those coming to the deal's defense were the American
Consumer Institute and the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology
ACI said a declining T Mobile
needs help, from AT&T or someone else. "T-Mobile's spectrum needs to
be fully and efficiently utilized, consumers should have access to 4G LTE
technologies, and policymakers should encourage increased investment and jobs
in the U.S.
economy, the group said. "If a German company won't invest in the U.S.,
let a U.S.
company make that investment. Whether that added investment comes from AT&T
is immaterial, something must be done to rescue T-Mobile."
T-Mobile is owned by German company Deutsche Telekom.
"The merger between AT&T and T-Mobile offers a
viable solution to the current spectrum crunch in this country," said
LISTA, "and widens the availability of the benefits of mobile broadband-
from education to healthcare to economic developments that are currently out of
reach for many populations.
AT&T argues that the deal will advance the deployment of
4G service, which is an Obama administration goal, and that the remaining
wireless market will remain competitive, citing Sprint-Nextel, Cricket and local