updated 02:10 pm EST, Thu December 1, 2011
ATT accuses FCC of bias despite own position
AT&T's Senior VP for External Affairs Jim Cicconi in a response to the FCC's publicizing its report opposing the T-Mobile merger. He insisted that it was "obviously one-sided" and that no reasonable person could call it objective. The FCC study allegedly "cherry-picks" data to suit its argument, he said.
Cicconi argued that the FCC was being self-contradictory on LTE expansion. Agency officials supposedly made presumptions that there was enough competition in rural areas to merit investment but that there wasn't enough in heavily popular areas. It was pure "speculation" that AT&T's LTE goals would go to 97 percent with or without the merger, he said, and AT&T had made sworn statements that it allegedly couldn't go beyond 80 percent without the $39 billion deal.
The executive also tried to argue that the FCC's claims its broadband fund would create jobs were equal to those of AT&T's promised private investments. AT&T had promised any existing call center jobs would stay, and that non-manager employees would be offered positions in the combined post-merger company.
AT&T contended that FCC was simply ignoring spectrum issues and pointed to regularly repeated claims from itself and T-Mobile that there were dramatic gains in data use that needed an acquisition. T-Mobile's HSPA+ users were consuming over 1GB of data a month on average. The FCC disregarded these as inconvenient," Cicconi said. He believed that Clearwire and Sprint had more spectrum than AT&T would even after a merger, and understated how much spectrum regional carriers had.
The counter-arguments sidestepped multiple points from the FCC. The FCC has argued that rural broadband through 4G and other technology was necessary not solely for competition but to connect rural dwellers regardless. AT&T also didn't explain whether its documents provided hard evidence or were just points of view, and made no attempt to explain its own submission that it only needed $3.8 billion for the 97 percent LTE coverage, not a full takeover.
On jobs, the FCC had noted that every major merger of the sort in the past had led to job losses and that promises didn't carry weight. AT&T has been accused of carrying unused spectrum and has been rumored talking about a backup joint venture with Deutsche Telekom that would accomplish the spectrum goals without reducing competition.
Accusations of bias are also ironic for AT&T, which by its nature as the interested party is motivated to present a one-sided argument. It further spent the several months following the deal drumming up support from many organizations, even small ones, virtually all of whom either took financial contributions from AT&T or otherwise had a clear stake in approving the deal. Public advocacy groups not funded by AT&T have more often opposed the merger.