Senate Antitrust Subcommittee chairman asks regulators to block AT&T / T-Mobile merger

Senator Herb Kohl, the chairman of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee is recommending that federal regulators deny AT&T’s $39 billion planned acquisition of T-Mobile. ”I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies,” Kohl said on Wednesday. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Congressman John Conyers, and Congressman Edward Markey also recently wrote a letter to the Justice Department and the FCC expressing concern that the acquisition would hurt competition in the U.S. wireless market. “We believe that AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would be a troubling backward step in federal public policy–a retrenchment from nearly two decades of promoting competition and open markets to acceptance of a duopoly in the wireless marketplace,” the letter said. “Such industry consolidation could reduce competition and increase consumer costs at a time our country can least afford it.” Sprint and its CEO Dan Hesse have also been very involved in trying to stop the merger. While Hesse has argued the deal will “stifle innovation” in the U.S. Wireless market, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson has argued the opposite and has said it will result in “net job growth.” In June AT&T’s General Counsel Wayne Watts said that the deal, which has been backed by other big tech hitters such as Microsoft, was on schedule for a March 2012 approval.

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