Consumers Blast AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

By Josh Long Comments
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In comments filed over the last few days with the Federal Communications Commission, scores of consumers have voiced clear opposition to AT&T’s planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

Ninety nine out of 100 comments most recently posted on the FCC’s electronic filing system expressed opposition to AT&T’s pending acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom, claiming that the controversial merger would lead to higher prices and less competition.

Several consumers contended the merger would create a duopoly in the wireless industry between AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and some commentators suggested that regulatory approval of the controversial transaction would lead to further consolidation, namely a Sprint Nextel/Verizon combination.

“Honestly lets face it as soon as these two corporations merge than the consumer will pretty much have the choice of either AT&T or Verizon, because Sprint would either have to … close down shop or make some kind of similar deal with Verizon in order to stay afloat," wrote Fahad Rahman.

The FCC has received more than 4,100 comments thus far on the merger through its electronic filing system; Channel Partners reviewed the last 100 comments that were posted today and received over the last few days.

“I believe this [merger] will create a monopoly and affect my cellular service in a negative way," wrote Chris Alexander. “As a loyal Tmobile customer for over 10 years I would be disappointed to have a large corporation that is as irresponsible as AT&T take over my cellular service. Competition is the only thing keeping this market realistic. Remove that and things will go down hill fast."

Sarah Mitroff alleged the merger would harm “consumers by forcing them to choose from a small number of companies that will have the power to gouge prices as much as they see fit."

Several commentators used the word “monopoly" to describe the fallout from the union of AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

Michael Holly contended the merger “would limit competition … move AT&T into a near monopoly position, and will defiantly put them in a position to abuse the pricing of cellular service."

Another consumer, John Shabanowitz, indicated that previous consolidation in the wireless industry has not benefited people.  

“The merger will result in reduced customer care quality and higher plan prices," he wrote. “In my experience with large wireless mergers, including AT&T/Cingular, Sprint/Nextel an Verizon/Alltel, the merged company generally takes on the pricing and customer service policies of its larger parent."

One person named “Hello" expressed support for AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA.  

“If T-Mobile was acquired by AT&T, T-Mobile customers can have access to faster 4G on their mobile devices," this person wrote.

The commentator also appeared to challenge concerns that the merger would lead to fewer choices, stating that AT&T and T-Mobile USA offer similar prices and only slight differences in monthly data plans.

“Also AT&T would still face competition from Verizon, Sprint, and other minor network carriers, such as MetroPCS," this person wrote. “The chances of a monopoly are very slim."

But of the 100 comments reviewed, “Hello" was clearly in the minority – and U.S. regulators are facing increasing pressure to closely scrutinize a merger that would eliminate the nation’s fourth-largest mobile operator and leave the majority of wireless subscribers under the control of AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Asked one commentator, Jeffrey Quisenberry: “Why does the FCC exist if not to prevent this kind of market-distorting aggregation?"

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