updated 02:40 pm EDT, Wed July 20, 2011
Senate antitrust lead wants ATT T-Mobile blocked
US Senate Antitrust Subcommittee head Herb Kohl on Wednesday called for the Department of Justice and FCC to block the AT&T buyout of T-Mobile. Letters to the two agencies from the senator warned that the deal would be "highly dangerous to competition" and would run against antitrust laws. Since cellphones are so vital to the U.S., "full and vibrant" competition was essential so that they got the most choices and better prices.
AT&T tried to spin the statements for the National Journal, claiming that "few others" opposed the deal. The claim has largely been proven false. Critics have noted that many of the organizations endorsing the deal have received large contributions from AT&T. GLAAD, for example, effectively forced its previous leader out, retracted its earlier endorsement of AT&T, and made a statement in favor of net neutrality after its members objected to trying to please a corporate donor with political favors.
Kohl's message isn't a guarantee that the DOJ or FCC will rule against the merger or impose conditions that would satisfy his demands. However, they serve as an important influence in the final decision and may dictate how fellow Democratic senators and congresspeople act.
The FCC is required to be largely secretive around its decision-making process for the merger and hasn't hinted where it might lean. Public advocacy groups and other critics have been concerned that the FCC may follow a recent pattern of refusing to significantly challenge telecom giants and rule out blocking the deal even if it didn't believe a compromise would be effective.