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AT&T asks court to dismiss rivals’ lawsuits over merger

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AT&T asked a federal court Friday to dismiss lawsuits by two rivals seeking to block its $39 billion merger with T-Mobile, alleging that one competitor had tried to pressure AT&T for business favors in exchange for supporting the deal.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, AT&T asked U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle to dismiss lawsuits by Sprint Nextel and Cellular South. The lawsuits were filed after the Justice Department sued Aug. 31 to block the mega-merger, citing potential harm to consumers if the wireless market concentrates into the hands of too few carriers.

In its court filing Friday, AT&T said Sprint wants to prevent the merger to stop competitors from getting more airwaves for better networks to compete against Sprint’s. Sprint dismissed the claims, saying it will respond with its own filing next Friday.

AT&T also said Cellular South, a Mississippi-area carrier recently renamed C Spire, had tried to secretly strike up a business agreement with AT&T to stop it from building out a competing high-speed Internet network in its coverage area.

“Such an extraordinary and inappropriate proposal simply confirms that what Cellular South fears is competition, not an alleged lack of competition,” AT&T General Counsel Wayne Watts said in a statement. 

Cellular South immediately refuted the claims.

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