AT&T assails FCC report on T-Mobile merger


AT&T said the FCC staff report, which was issued this week, “cherry-picks” facts to support only a negative view of the $39 billion deal. (Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)
December 1, 2011

AT&T fired back at the Federal Communications Commission Thursday with a scathing rebuttal of the agency’s report on AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. AT&T described the FCC report as “one-sided” and said it favored its competitors.

AT&T, digging in its heels more deeply in its bid for T-Mobile, said the FCC staff report, which was issued this week, “cherry-picks” facts to support only a negative view of the $39 billion deal. And the company pointed to inconsistencies in the report’s findings.

“Any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis,” said AT&T Executive Vice President James W. Cicconi in a blog post.

The FCC strongly disagreed with AT&T’s characterization of its merger analysis. The agency said Thursday that staff “dispassionately analyzed all the facts” presented in hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

“The AT&T/T-Mobile merger would result in the single greatest increase in wireless industry consolidation ever proposed,” the agency said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. “In addition, AT&T’s own filings, many of which they have kept confidential, show that the deal would lead to massive job losses.”

The statement escalates an already fierce battle between AT&T and T-Mobile and federal government regulators, who are fighting the deal. The Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit to block the deal goes to trial in February.

Analysts say the chances of the deal being approved are slim. When asked whether his stinging blog post would make it even harder for the company to reapply for approval of the merger at the FCC, Cicconi said to reporters after a Phoenix Center panel Thursday that he felt he had “no choice.”

“Their report was strongly worded, too,” Cicconi said.

The companies have argued that their deal would benefit consumers because it would allow AT&T to expand its high-speed mobile network to more Americans. But the FCC and the Justice Department have criticized the merger as an anti-competitive deal that would lead to higher prices on monthly wireless bills. Both agencies also expressed doubts that the deal would generate more jobs.

Cicconi said the merged companies would expand broadband more quickly to American homes and create new jobs in the process. Earlier this week, the FCC rejected AT&T’s jobs claims but has recently argued that its own policies to expand broadband connections would spur employment.

“This notion — that government spending on broadband deployment creates jobs and economic growth, but private investment does not — makes no sense,” Cicconi said.

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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