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Stephenson: Merger Will Benefit Consumers Stephenson: Merger Will Benefit Consumers

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Stephenson: Merger Will Benefit Consumers

AT&T Chairman, President and CEO Randall Stephenson will make the case to a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that his company's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA will benefit consumers by improving service and providing more competitive prices.

"This transaction is all about consumers. It's about keeping up with consumer demand. It's about having the capacity to drive innovation and competitive prices for consumers," Stephenson said in his written testimony obtained by Tech Daily Dose. "And most important, it's about giving consumers what they expect - fewer dropped calls, faster speeds and access to state-of-the-art mobile broadband Internet service - whether they live in a large city, a small town, or out in rural areas."

Stephenson, along with the CEOs of T-Mobile USA, Sprint and Cellular South and others, will be testifying at a hearing on the merger Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee.

Stephenson said consumers will benefit from improved service quality and network capacity, more innovation, and increased competitive pressure. He added that combining his company, the second biggest wireless provider, with No. 4 T-Mobile USA will allow the merged firm to build out its 4G LTE network and bring other state-of-the art mobile broadband technologies to 97 percent of the U.S. population -- steps AT&T did not plan on taking before the transaction.

"With the scale, resources and synergies this transaction provides, we can and have committed to provide cutting-edge LTE mobile Internet service to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population - nearly 55 million more Americans than our pre-merger plans and millions more than any other provider has committed to serve," Stephenson added.

Stephenson dismissed criticisms that the merger lead to less competition. He said T-Mobile customers would have the choice to retain their existing rate plans or switch to an AT&T plan that might include access to its 4G LTE service, a choice T-Mobile customers would not have without the merger.

"The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile could not possibly derail the powerful forces of competition in one of the nation's most competitive industries," he said. Stephenson added that the "vast majority" of consumers have access to five facilities-based wireless operators now and will have even more choice once new mobile broadband providers like Clearwire and LightSquared roll out their new services.

At least one competitor, however, will make the case that the deal will reverse efforts by policymakers in recent years to expand telecommunications competition and will ultimately lead to less innovation and higher prices.

"With this transaction, policymakers face a clear choice: either (1) allow the wireless industry to continue down a path toward a duopoly made up of Ma Bell's two behemoth descendants or (2) reverse course and lay the foundation for a new era of competition in this industry," Cellular South CEO and President Victor (Hu) Meena said in his written testimony obtained by Tech Daily Dose.

The deal must be approved by the Justice Department, which will examine its impact on competition, and the Federal Communications Commission, which will weigh whether the deal is in the public interest.

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