The California Public Utilities Commission, in a split vote, has decided to scrutinize AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The PUC decision comes four days after 14 national Hispanic organizations filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission in support of the $39 million purchase, according to a news release from the Raben Group, a public policy advocacy group located in Washington, D.C.
The California’s PUC decision marks a departure from previous policy, The Times said. For 16 years, the PUC had a hands-off attitude toward the wireless industry.
PUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, a Santa Clara University law professor and former FCC staff attorney, to The Times: “Only this body can determine how this measure affects California consumers. Our analysis will give the public an opportunity to determine if this serves competition and the public interest.
Policy experts at the San Francisco-based The Greenlining Institute applauded the PUC’s decision. The Institute, which bills itself as a national policy, organizing and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice, said in a news release that this action adds California to a growing list of states that have raised objections to the merger.
“We hope this action sends a message to the FCC,” Greenlining Institute General Counsel Samuel S. King was quoted in the new release. “The last time it reviewed a major merger, between Comcast and NBCUniversal, the FCC never held any public hearings in California, home to two of the nation’s largest media markets.”
Fourteen national Hispanic organizations — including the Cuban American National Council, the Hispanic Federation, The League of United Latin American Citizens, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – argue that the potential merger will create opportunities for Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico.
The 14 Hispanic groups believe the merger would be a catalyst for opening up high-speed wireless networks to underserved communities, the Raben Group news release said.
In the comments filed to the FCC, the groups cited AT&T’s employee benefits and position relationship with unions. They also cited AT&T’s pledge to extend these benefits to T-Mobile workers.
Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, Hispanic Federation president, was quoted in the Raben Group news release: “While some non-Latino organizations have sought to discredit our opinions and deny us a seat at the table, we reject their efforts and reaffirm our right to comment on proceedings between the FCC and regulatory bodies.”
The Times reported that the California PUC’s findings will be submitted to the FCC in October. A vote on the deal will be held, The Times said, if the Justice Department clears the merger of antitrust concerns.