AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile raises questions about American jobs, security and infrastructure, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said in a C-SPAN interview.
proposed acquisition of competitor T-Mobile would leave the U.S. wireless market
with only two major players-Verizon, which would be bumped from top dog to
second fiddle, being the other-and would have serious effects on American consumers,
American jobs and the dispersal of American dollars, according to a member of
the Federal Communications Commission.
members of the FCC will need to ask themselves some serious questions about
"what residue of competition" would be left, should the merger be
approved, Commissioner Michael Copps said during an interview on C-SPAN's
Communicators," program, available online and scheduled to air April 2.
Copps said the
deal, which is expected to take more than a year to get through the regulatory
process, would require an even "steeper climb" for him to approve
than did the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal-a deal Copps ultimately
deal, he said, would also give "a lot of power, a lot of influence,"
to one company in a market where two companies would control nearly 80 percent
of the nation's wireless spectrum. Before approving such a deal, Copps said it
would be important to understand what impact it would have on American jobs.
Additionally, were AT&T to pay T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom $39
billion, there's a question of how much money would be sent overseas to support
telecommunications abroad, instead of in the United States.
issue he finds most problematic is that the deal "kind of sucks the oxygen
out of so many issues that are pending before the Federal Communications
Commission," Copps said. "This affects so much of what we're doing.
Whether this goes forward or not has an effect on the issue of spectrum
auctions. It has an effect on public safety. The list goes on and on."
After 10 years
at the FCC, he said, the organization sometimes feels more like, "the
Federal Merger Commission," with companies continually coming before the
agency for approval and insisting that it'll be the last time.
soon as you approve one," Copps said, "then somebody else is through
the door saying, 'Hey, you let the other guy get real big, so you have to let
us, too, or else it's not fair.'"
Sprint has said it plans to fight the AT&T acquisition. Sprint currently is
the nation's third-largest carrier and considered a major player in the market,
and the deal would enlarge AT&T to the point of dwarfing Sprint. It would
also hurt competition and consumers, Sprint argued in a March 28 press statement
, as well
as undo earlier federal rulings.
transaction ... would reverse nearly three decades of actions by the U.S.
government and the courts that modernized and opened U.S. communications
markets to competition," Sprint argued in the statement. "The wireless
industry has sparked unprecedented levels of competition, innovation, job
creation and investment for the American economy, all of which could be undone
by this transaction."
that the result of the deal would be a "duopoly" between AT&T and
A recent editorial
in The New York Times suggested the same, adding that in order for the
acquisition to be deemed in the public interest, it would need to improve
competition, which could be accomplished by regulators forcing AT&T to
divest portions of the T-Mobile spectrum to other carriers, allowing the
subscribers of other carriers to roam on its network and providing customers
with non-discriminatory access to data from third parties.
there's a lot of merit in there," Copps said, responding to the editorial,
though he added that there's also a question of whether it's worth spending so
much time trying to make "what some people would deem unpalatable,
he wondered, "Is that the kind of telecommunications market we ought to be
working for? Is that the best we can do for competition? Is that the best we
can do for consumers? Is that the best we can do for jobs?"
it is to have these questions answered in the affirmative, will have to make a
good number of concessions-which, analysts have argued
, it's prepared to do.
Daniel Mead, who told Reuters in a March 21 report that Verizon is not interested
in teaming up with Sprint,
added in regard to AT&T's need for approval from federal regulators:
"Anything can go through if you make enough concessions."