AT&T’s $39 billion proposal to take over T-Mobile is bad news for consumers, and a perfect example of what our anti-trust laws are supposed to prevent.
If it’s corporate influence as usual at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), you can bet AT&T will emerge the winner and cell phone users will lose big time.
The FCC is the only federal agency with jurisdiction over the takeover that accepts public comments on the record. It’s crucial that we use the FCC’s official comment period to demonstrate just how much public opposition there is to this deal.
There have already been an unprecedented number of comments filed by consumers opposing AT&T. But we’ll need your help to make the response so huge that even the FCC can’t ignore us.
If approved, there will be a virtual duopoly for mobile phone service — with AT&T and Verizon controlling 80% of the market. It’s one of the largest proposed “mergers” in years — and the biggest potential anti-trust case of the Obama administration.1
Make no mistake, AT&T taking over T-Mobile would be a disaster for all mobile phone users — not just T-Mobile customers. AT&T has a history of censoring content and blocking phone features it doesn’t like. The proposed takeover would lead to higher prices and stifle choice and innovation in the marketplace.2
AT&T couldn’t be better positioned for success. On issues like media consolidation and net neutrality, the FCC consistently sides with Big Telecom. And it’s not just the commissioners it lobbies. AT&T’s attention to the FCC is so fierce that it even delivered 1,524 cupcakes to FCC employees in 63 separate offices and departments at Christmas last year.3 In addition, AT&T is the top corporate contributor to Congress,4 and the company boasts an intimate and longstanding relationship with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.5
AT&T, which bitterly opposed net neutrality and succeeded in convincing the FCC to refrain from banning discrimination on the wireless web,6 would have even more control over the wireless Internet should the takeover be allowed to go through. The company has a long history of blocking competing services — like Skype, Google Voice and Slingbox. And has in the past simply crippled mobile phones that can do more than what the company wants to allow its customers to do on the wireless Web.7
The White House, FCC and the Department of Justice have a track record of caving to the major telecom companies — supporting retroactive immunity for telecom companies that illegally spied on Americans, invoking state secrets to defend telecom companies against lawsuits on illegal practices, and failing to support strong net neutrality regulations at the FCC.
Consolidation of telecom and media hurts our ability to access the information we need as citizens to fully participate in our democracy and hold our government accountable. Corporate control of media, and increasing consolidation of that control of media by the country’s largest corporate political contributor, is something that affects all Americans, regardless of who their cellphone carrier happens to be.
It’s up to us to fight on every front, and especially at the FCC, to stop President Obama’s administration from rubberstamping this terrible deal. With a May 31st deadline on public comments, the FCC must hear a resounding roar from the masses of people who oppose this deal.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1 AT&T-Mobile: Would Merger Put Ma Bell Back Together Again? Huffington Post, May 11, 2011
2 Five Things Wrong with AT&T’s Mega-Merger, Free Press, March 24, 2011
3 AT&T to FCC: Let Them Eat Cupcakes, Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2010
4The 10 Biggest Corporate Campaign Contributors in U.S. Politics, Daily Finance, October, 13, 2010.
5 AT&T’s Man in the White House Huffington Post, January 8, 2011
6 AT&T ramps up lobbying effort against net neutrality at FCC, Washington Post, November 29, 2010
7 AT&T’s Backflip A Backward Step For Android, Information Week, March 8, 2010