By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm
The FCC doesn’t like the looks of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile’s US operations. Paid Content’s Tom Krazit reports:
During a media call Tuesday afternoon FCC representatives (who insisted on remaining anonymous) said that Chairman Julius Genachowski has asked fellow commissioners to review a proposal that the merger be subject to a hearing after finding aspects of the proposed deal that don’t line up with the public interest. One representative called the merger a unique concentration in market power in almost every single one of the top 100 local markets in the U.S., and also said that AT&T’s claims that the merger will allow more Americans access to 4G wireless (AT&T’s primary selling point) and create new jobs did not hold water.
If the hearing happens, it’ll only begin after the Department of Justice concludes a trial over the proposed merger that isn’t due to start until February. So it could be a long, long time until the deal gets a definitive yay or nay–and you’ve got to wonder at what point AT&T and T-Mobile decide that it’s best to give up and begin the rest of their lives as competitors. (AT&T wants T-Mobile so it can beef up its 4G, but it must have a backup plan, and it can’t postpone it forever.)
For me, the prospect of the merger has always been pretty simple. Smaller wireless companies, like T-Mobile, Sprint, and regionals like MetroPCS and Cricket have lower prices and more creative plans. The two giants, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, have higher prices and less flexibility. I don’t see any scenario under which removing one smaller player from the equation improves things for consumers–and that’s why I’ll be happy if the merger falls apart, as it’s now looking like it will.