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Congress

AT&T Finds Unlikely Source Of Support

May 25, 2011

While most of the usual stakeholders have weighed in on whether federal regulators should back AT&T's bid to buy rival T-Mobile USA, one unlikely player to give its two cents is the Sierra Club.

The group sent a letter Wednesday to members of Congress "to express optimism about the potential expansion of broadband that the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile provides," though it did not explicitly say if it supports approval of the deal.

"Expansion of broadband technologies to rural America brings a vital 21st century infrastructure to all our communities and will conserve energy by eliminating carbon emissions related to travel and promote other efficiencies through smart grids and smart meters accessed through broadband," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote. "As regulators examine this transaction, they should consider these values in their deliberations."

The group has, been pushing for greater broadband access as part of the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental and organized labor groups.

Margrete Strand Rangnes, director of Sierra Club's labor and trade program, said her group believes that if the merger is structured right, it could provide an important opportunity to increase broadband deployment.

The Communications Workers of America also belongs to the alliance and has come out in support of the merger. The CWA represents more than 40,000 AT&T wireless workers.

Many public interest groups and some lawmakers, however, oppose the merger, saying it will stifle innovation and competition in the wireless market and lead to higher prices for consumers and a likely loss of jobs.

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