AT&T/T-Mobile Critics Fire Back

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Consumers Union, Media Access Project file responses to opposition of petition to deny deal

Broadcasting & Cable
By John Eggerton

Critics of the AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile responded to the companies’ recent defense of the deal as reply comments began to pile up at the FCC in advance of Monday’s end-of-day deadline.

Among the deal’s chief critics — outside of competitor Sprint — are Consumers Union and Media Access Project, which filed their response to AT&T-T-Mobile’s opposition to their petition to deny the deal.

To the companies’ argument that the deal allows it to launch 4G LTE service to millions of unserved households that would not otherwise get it, MAP and company says, in no uncertain terms, bohunkus.

“In an attempt to lure the Commission into following its acquisition pipe dream, AT&T tethers its willingness to invest in LTE deployment — and the admittedly ‘eventual’ ‘potential’ benefits of that investment — to the Commission’s willingness to ignore legal precedent and the immediate, actual, public interest harms that the acquisition will inflict,” they argue, repeating their call for the FCC to deny the merger.

T-Mobile put an even sharper point on it, decrying the merger as an illegal takeover because it would “lessen competition or restrain commerce between the U.S. and foreign countries” in contravention of the Communications Act.

“As the record shows, even under the most cramped and restrictive reading of the statute, Section 314 [of the Act] prohibits the transfer of facilities and assets between AT&T and [T-Mobile parent] Deutsche Telekom.”

PK also said it planned to file supporting material for its contention that neither AT&T nor T-Mobile is as spectrum-constrained as they have argued.

Adding an exclamation point on its original petition to deny (which was filed May 31), The Greenlining Institute said that AT&T and T-Mobile had only repeated their general, theoretical and speculative public interest benefits and had not addressed their criticisms. They said the merger should be denied or, failing that, any decision postponed until there was more vetting of its and others’ issues or, failing that, that the deal carry various conditions protecting low-income and minority consumers.

Reply comments were due Monday (June 20) by midnight. The FCC is currently in its 53rd day of its unofficial 180-day shot clock on vetting the merger.