Senate Democrat wants AT&T/T-Mobile deal blocked

A prominent senator has called on regulators to block the controversial AT&T/T-Mobile merger as it would inevitably “cause substantial harm to competition and consumers.”

According to Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl, the deal between the two industry heavyweights will replace the old AT&T phone monopoly “with a near-duopoly” of AT&T and Verizon.

“No other cellphone companies beyond the four national carriers have their own national networks on which to provide nationwide coverage,” Kohl wrote in a 7-page letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski obtained by Politico.

“In addition, the local and regional cellphone companies have stated that they often have difficulties in gaining roaming agreements with the national carriers, despite these carriers’ legal obligation to do so. Placing such a key input in the hands of their national competitors unquestionably will hamstring these smaller carriers in their efforts to compete with the national cellphone companies.”

Unsurprisingly, AT&T rejected Kohl’s criticism of the merger. 

“We respect Sen. Kohl. However, we feel his view is inconsistent with antitrust law, is shared by few others and ignores the many positive benefits and numerous supporters of the transaction,” the carrier claimed in an official statement.

“This is a decision that will be made by the Department of Justice and the FCC under applicable law and after a full and fair examination of the facts. We continue to believe those reviews will result in approval of this transaction.”

But Kohl says he remains concerned about the future of Sprint if the AT&T/T-Mobile deal goes through.

“While we recognize that antitrust policy is not designed to protect any specific competitor, but competition generally, we cannot turn a blind eye to the dangerous possibility that this acquisition could ultimately result in a duopoly in the national cellphone market,” he added. 

[Via Politico1, 2]