A coalition of public advocacy groups is asking that the Federal Communications Commission hold field hearings on the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.
In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Tuesday, seven organizations, including Free Press and Public Knowledge, say that such hearings would increase public interaction and awareness.
"Your testimony makes it clear that the FCC has become a leader in providing online tools that allow the agency to communicate to the public and the public to communicate to the agency," they write. "But as the Commission realizes, online participation is not enough--particularly when millions of Americans do not have adequate broadband services."
The groups urge the agency to hold a series of hearings before September. "These hearings, and the direct input from the public they will provide, will help the Commission and each Commissioner come to a clearer understanding of the issues at stake," they say in the letter.
Field hearings on mergers are relatively rare. Genachowski held one workshop in Chicago during the review of the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger.
AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said the public record is already clear.
"The FCC has received extensive public comment on this transaction as well as more than a million pages of documents," he said in a statement. "The enormous public record amassed demonstrates unequivocally that wireless competition will remain fierce and that the merger will result in tremendous public interest benefits."
Free Press and other opponents of the merger have organized a website to allow people to easily comment about the merger on the FCC's website. That, and others efforts, has flooded the system with thousands of comments.
In addition to Free Press and Public Knowledge, Tuesday's letter was signed by Consumers Union, the Future of Music Coalition, Media Access Project, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative.
Both the FCC and the Justice Department are reviewing the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile.
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