Responding to sharp questioning from congressional lawmakers on Wednesday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson refused to call T-Mobile a competitor and denied that AT&T considered the benefits of removing T-Mobile from the wireless marketplace.
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., repeatedly asked Stephenson and T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm to admit they are competitors. Stephenson said T-Mobile is not a "competitive focus" for AT&T because the smaller company is losing subscribers. T-Mobile still runs ad campaigns specifically targeting AT&T's system.
The AT&T CEO also denied wanting to remove T-Mobile as a competitor, or that officials considered that when AT&T decided to acquire T-Mobile. Kohl criticized Stephenson for claiming the deal is in the national interest. AT&T is seeking government approval to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also shook some odd assertions out of Stephenson. Under Franken's pointed questioning, Stephenson initially denied that AT&T had a competitive edge in its exclusive iPhone deal with Apple.
Franken argued that such exclusive deals would only go to major carriers like AT&T or Verizon (which are the only companies authorized to offer the iPhone), harming smaller carriers who can't get the latest devices, and Stephenson eventually acknowledged that Apple would be "not as likely" to give an exclusive deal to a smaller company.
The CEOs appeared before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, which Kohl chairs.