Will Lies, Manipulation Matter if the Merger Is Approved?

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-06-20 Print this article Print


Does the Alabama Rural Health Association know that its dreams of broadband for rural telemedicine will probably go unanswered for the same reason? How about the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a state where T-Mobile has virtually no presence? These organizations and others received donations from AT&T and apparently were promised that they'd get broadband as soon as the merger happened, even though testimony in congressional hearings last month contradicted that.

So if you can't believe AT&T when it makes claims about facts that can actually be checked, what about things that are a little harder to check? In May, Sprint disputed AT&T's claim that the company has insufficient spectrum to deploy LTE. But even in AT&T's rebuttal, the company offered no details on why that claim was wrong. In fact, AT&T's rebuttal seemed to be a tactic often used in Washington called "Proof by Repeated Assertion." In other words, if you claim the same thing often enough, people will think it's true.

Now, Sprint has submitted another filing with the FCC, calling AT&T's hand on its spectrum claims. According to Sprint Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Vonya McCann, AT&T's spectrum claims are wrong.

"Sprint will present a detailed technical analysis explaining how AT&T could increase its network capacity by more than 600 percent by 2015 without subjecting the country to the anti-competitive and anti-consumer harms associated with its proposed takeover of T-Mobile," she said in a prepared statement. "This capacity increase could more than meet AT&T's projected data service demand growth through and beyond 2015 for a fraction of the cost of its proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile."

If what Sprint says is true (and I haven't been able to do a complete technical analysis of Sprint's analysis), then AT&T is in fact not telling the truth to the FCC and maybe not to Congress. But if the merger is ultimately approved by the FCC, the Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, who will remember or care whether or not AT&T was telling the truth about whether it truly needed T-Mobile's spectrum to expand its network capacity? It will come down to a matter of opinion, and it's unlikely that Congress or any other legal entity will investigate whether AT&T was telling the truth. After all, how can a mere government compete with a corporation that can recruit an army of lawyers and wield a bottomless bag of lobbying dollars?

But when I heard those desperate pleas by those organizations that they need rural broadband so badly that it's literally a matter of life and death to them, I can't help but wonder how they are going to feel when they find out that all AT&T wants from them is their cards and letters to the FCC. Or how they'll feel when they find out that AT&T never had any intention of giving them the broadband they need so badly. How will they feel when they finally learn that they've been duped? 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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