Consumer Groups Ask FCC for Hearings on AT&T/T-Mobile Deal

Several consumer groups have asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to convene a series of field hearings around the United States on the pending merger between AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

Holding hearings would be consistent with the Commissions recent actions to increase public participation in its proceedings,” wrote John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge, in a letter that also was submitted by other groups. In fact, the Commission has previously held field hearings about proposed mergers and other topics that greatly impact consumers.”

Bergmayer noted the FCC convened a hearing in Chicago to allow the public to comment on the Comcast/NBC Universal merger.

Consumer groups have raised concern about a merger that they say would enable AT&T and Verizon Wireless the nations two largest mobile operators to control nearly 80 percent of the U.S. wireless market.

The Commission should not consider this merger without seeking direct input from those most impacted,” Bergmayer stated in the letter.

The FCC has solicited comments from the public about the merger through electronic submissions, and AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris told Bloomberg that the Commission has received extensive public comment on this transaction as well as more than a million pages of documents.”

Groups that submitted the letter to the FCC include Consumers Union, Free Press, Future of Music Coalition, Media Access Project, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Open Technology Initiative, a project of the New America Foundation.

In a blog posting last week, Bob Williams of Consumers Union said the group has received thousands of comments from consumers in connection with the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

This merger is not a done deal by any means, and the FCC is waiting to hear from consumers like you,” Williams wrote.

The FCC and U.S. Department of Justice must approve the merger, and they could either impose conditions on the transaction, such as requiring divestitures of certain assets and customers, or reject the deal outright. It’s also theoretically possible, but unlikely, that U.S. regulators would approve the deal without imposing any conditions.

AT&T and T-Mobile USA have asserted the $39 billion transaction is in the public interest, enabling AT&T to better handle escalating demands on its network and speed up the expansion of advanced 4G mobile services.

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