Sprint Nextel, joined by an army of thousands of consumers, have filed requests for the Federal Communications Commission to block AT&T’s proposed acquisition of rival mobile carrier T-Mobile USA.
The $39 billion acquisition would create a “Twin Bell duopoly,” giving AT&T and Verizon Communications a combined 82 percent of the mobile market in the country, Sprint said Tuesday. Approval of the acquisition would take the U.S. mobile market back to the 1980s, when only two carriers had mobile licenses in each area, Sprint said in its 377-page filing.
The FCC’s spectrum auctions in the 1990s “gave rise to Sprint, T-Mobile, and other wireless carriers, and ushered in an era of competition and growth that has greatly benefitted consumers,” Sprint’s representatives wrote. “Wireless competition has sparked a technological revolution in broadband data services, applications and devices. The proposed transaction would turn back the clock on competition and innovation and bring this era of unprecedented wireless expansion and technological innovation to an abrupt, but avoidable, halt.”
Sprint has opposed the deal since the companies announced it in March. The deal would merge the second largest mobile carrier in the U.S. with the fourth largest, creating a new leader.
AT&T has argued that it needs T-Mobile’s spectrum to keep up with growing demand for mobile broadband service. Sprint disputed that argument, saying AT&T already controls the most spectrum of any U.S. mobile carrier. AT&T is the “industry laggard” in deploying next-generation mobile broadband, a source close to Sprint said Tuesday.
AT&T noted that “dozens” of groups, including labor unions, politicians and community and minority groups, have voiced support for the deal. “We anticipate additional support for the transaction from more voices who recognize the tremendous benefits for the economy, innovation and public policy associated with bringing high-speed wireless broadband deployment to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population — nearly 55 million more Americans than our pre-merger plans — and improving call quality and network performance for consumers,” an AT&T spokeswoman said.
The FCC has received more than 10,000 comments about the proposed merger, with many mobile customers submitting one-page form letters from media reform group Free Press in opposition to the deal.
“If you even bother to read this, I have a reminder for you; the reason you got into politics in the first place—to serve the people,” one person wrote. “Corporations aren’t people. Go get your backbone and integrity out of the closet, dust ‘em off, and wear them proudly. Try to remember who you serve.”
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