Groups representing minorities, communications union workers, and mobile- application developers all detailed their support on Tuesday for AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, even as 28,000 comments poured in to the Federal Communications Commission, mostly from opponents. The groups' message: The deal will bring broadband to more people.
The Minority Media and Telecom Council held a conference call to discuss its decision to endorse the $39 billion merger between second-biggest U.S. wireless carrier AT&T and No. 4 T-Mobile USA, even though the group has historically opposed such mergers in the past.
AT&T argues that acquiring T-Mobile will allow it to deploy its next-generation wireless technology faster than it could on its own and that T-Mobile has not viable strategy to deploy such technology by itself.
The council noted that blacks and Hispanics are much more likely than whites to rely on their mobile phones to get online, and said boosting deployment of next-generation broadband services will ensure that minorities can continue to do so at a reasonable price.
“By easing capacity constraints, the merger will help avert the spectrum crunch – especially in very large majority-minority markets – and thus alleviate the pressures that could drive prices up, drive down minority adoption, and widen the digital divide,” the council wrote in its filing with the FCC.
The Association for Competitive Technology, which represents many mobile-app makers, also cited the need for more spectrum as one of the reasons it is backing the merger.
ACT Executive Director Morgan Reed said in a separate conference call that combining the resources of AT&T and T-Mobile will help alleviate the spectrum crunch the wireless industry faces -- a crunch fueled by the public’s growing demand for wireless technologies. He said while his group supports the FCC’s efforts to obtain additional spectrum for wireless broadband, such proposals as incentive auctions will take years to bear fruit.
“The rollout of new spectrum will be years in the making,” Reed said. The spectrum crunch “needs to be alleviated immediately.”
Both groups were asked if they receive any financial support from AT&T. David Honig, the council’s president and executive director, denied that AT&T’s past support of his group had any impact on its decision. He noted that AT&T was one of many companies that helped sponsor MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit in January and that the $100,000 the company provided for the event ,represents only 4 percent of the group’s budget.
Meanwhile, Reed said AT&T is not a member of his group and that it does not receive any financial support from the company.
The Communication Workers of America, which represents more than 40,000 AT&T wireless workers, was among the early supporters of the merger. The union argues that the merger will boost jobs, even though critics argue that most mergers result in layoffs.
In a filing it made to the FCC Tuesday, CWA cited a new report from the Economic Policy Institute that found that AT&T’s pledge to invest $8 billion to build out its wireless-broadband infrastructure will create up to 96,000 jobs.
“Overall, this merger, with regulatory oversight, will be a positive development for high-speed broadband build out, quality jobs, innovation and consumer benefits and in maintaining competition,” CWA said.
Those urging the FCC to block the deal have until the end of Tuesday to file their comments. Those who want to reply to critics of the deal have until June 10.