Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
used an FCC reform hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee
to express his strong opposition to the proposed AT&T-T Mobile merger.
"It would be a
historic mistake to approve the AT&T-Mobile merger," he said flatly.
He said it would be a return to the early 1990 duopoly days when the companies
argued that cell phones were a business-to-business service and smaller
handsets were not in the offing. Markey held up a 1993-era cell phone
"brick" and the Blackberry that followed only four years later--after
the cell phone market was opened up to more competition--as illustration of the
days he did not want to return to. "I've seen the movie before, I know how
it ends," said Markey.
He pointed out that in
October 1993, the committee moved over 200 MHZ of spectrum for the
creation of competitive cellular licenses. The price came down from 50 cents a
minute to 10 cents, he pointed out, and forced all companies to go digital.
Markey said it was
paranoid, Darwinian competition that drove innovation and asked the
commissioners to keep that in mind as they came to a decision he called
"the biggest one you make."
Markey did not ask any
of the commissioners to weigh in, which they would not have been able to anyway
to avoid prejudging an issue before them.
Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) cautioned Markey and all members to be careful
how they conveyed their thoughts directly to the commissioners about the deal
given that those commissioners were currently reviewing it. Markey took umbrage,
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said Markey was just expressing an opinion, and
Walden tried to calm the waters by saying he was simply providing a word of
caution, rather than a criticism of Markey's opinion or suggesting the
legislator should not be free to express it.