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AT&T fires back at FCC staff report on T-Mobile deal

Grant Gross | Dec. 2, 2011
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has invited questions about its impartiality with a staff report laying out concerns about AT&T's proposed acquisition of rival mobile carrier T-Mobile USA, AT&T said Thursday.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has invited questions about its impartiality with a staff report laying out concerns about AT&T's proposed acquisition of rival mobile carrier T-Mobile USA, AT&T said Thursday.

The FCC announced Nov. 22 that its staff had found the proposed US$39 billion deal to be contrary to the public interest, and on Tuesday, the FCC released its 157-page staff report laying out concerns about the merger, while also granting AT&T's request to pull back its application to transfer T-Mobile spectrum licenses.

AT&T fired back on Thursday, calling the staff report unfair and lacking in objectivity.

"We expected that the AT&T-T-Mobile transaction would receive careful, considered, and fair analysis," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a blog post. "Unfortunately, the preliminary FCC Staff Analysis offers none of that. The document is so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis."

The report raises questions about whether its authors were "predisposed," he added. "The report cherry-picks facts to support its views, and ignores facts that don't," Cicconi said. "Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact. This is clearly not the fair and objective analysis to which any party is entitled, and which we have every right to expect."

The staff report "dispassionately" analyzed the facts of the merger, based on a 200,000-page record and the participation of more than 50 businesses and consumer groups, an FCC spokesman said. "The AT&T/T-Mobile merger would result in the single greatest increase in wireless industry consolidation ever proposed," he added. "The objective analysis concluded, like that of the Department of Justice and multiple state attorneys general, that the transaction would decrease competition, innovation and investment, and harm consumers."

The FCC, in the staff report, has ignored its own findings that 90 percent of U.S. residents have a choice of five or more mobile carriers, Cicconi's blog post said.

The report also discounts AT&T's promised 4G rollout, he added. AT&T has said the merger will allow it to roll out LTE mobile broadband service to 97 percent of U.S. residents, instead of the 80 percent that the company had planned. The FCC report dismisses this commitment based on "speculation" that AT&T would expand its network even without the merger, Cicconi said.

The FCC report also ignores job gains that would likely come as AT&T expands its network, Cicconi added. AT&T and supporters of the merger have argued that AT&T's promised $8 billion in network deployment spending would create up to 96,000 new jobs at AT&T and other companies. The FCC, in October, estimated that its new $4.5-billion-a-year broadband fund would create up to 500,000 jobs over six years, he noted.

 

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