Consumer, Business Associations Oppose AT&T Merger

BY Heather Greenfield
May 10, 2011

Consumer and business groups voiced their opposition to the AT&T merger proposal a day ahead of a hearing on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, “The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Is Humpty Dumpty Being Put Back Together Again?” will be webcast.

CCIA President & CEO Ed Black said there has been tremendous innovation in the tech sector since the break up of AT&T in the 1980s for denying fair interconnectivity to a competitor. Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said the mobile phone market became competitive in 1993 after Congress authorized the FCC to hold spectrum auctions.

“The merger threatens to completely undo what Congress did in 1993 and recreate a duopoly,” Sohn said. “If antitrust law means anything in this country, this merger must be denied.”

Rural Cellular Association President & CEO Steve Berry said, “If you have over 30 percent market share, that’s illegal for a merger.”

Media Access Project director Andy Schwartzman added that antitrust laws recognize that maverick companies like T-Mobile are especially important to preserve, saying the mobile market would be less innovative and more expensive for all customers without T-Mobile.

“T-Mobile has been a leader in offering low priced plans — $15-50 less than comparable AT&T plans,” Schwartzman said.

“Based on the merits, or lack of merit, the merger should be easily disapproved – without political influence to support it,” Black told reporters. But he agreed that money and politics are important in Washington and noted AT&T has a massive political action machine that has given money to Congressional campaigns for decades.

“They need to do this because the deal is vulnerable on the merits. If AT&T fools people on the reality of the market and give misinformation, they may get some members of Congress to support this,” Black said in response to a reporters’ question about Congressional support.

“A lot of folks whether Republican or Democrat see this [merger] as unthinkable and they’re shocked this could even be proposed to begin with,” Sohn said.

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