The AT&Terminator: Rise of Ma Bell

To hear tell from AT&T, the company’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA is a boon for Americans and their country. Sure, it removes an innovative, low-cost carrier from the wireless market and leaves America with essentially three big wireless-telecoms. Sure, it raises the prospect of higher rates and fewer choices for consumers. But it will speed and broaden AT&T’s deployment of next-generation 4G wireless service.

And it’s a victory for America. As AT&T observed in its press release announcing the acquisition, the deal “makes T-Mobile USA, currently a German-owned US telecom network, part of a US-based company.” Such morally admirable altruism and patriotism. But few, it seems, are buying it.

On Sunday afternoon Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, urged “both the Department of Justice and the FCC leave no stone unturned in determining what the impact of this combination is on the American people.” A few hours later, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), chairman of the Senate Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee, promised a hearing on the deal.

“The explosion of cell phone usage – especially smartphones – makes competition in this market more important than ever as a check on prices, consumer choice, and service,” Kohl said in a statement. “That’s why the Antitrust Subcommittee will take a close look at what this loss of competition will mean for people who increasingly rely on wireless phone service to connect to friends, family and the Internet.”

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