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Groups Ask FCC to Block Wireless Merger as Deadline Looms Groups Ask FCC to Block Wireless Merger as Deadline Looms

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TECHNOLOGY

Groups Ask FCC to Block Wireless Merger as Deadline Looms

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Players in the AT&T/T-Mobile merger question at a Congressional hearing in May:Randall Stephenson-ATT, Philip Humm-T-Mobile, Daniel Hesse-Sprint, Victor H. Meena-Cellular South, Gigi Sohn-Public Knowledge, Larry Cohen-CWA(Richard A. Bloom)

The Federal Communications Commission is facing a cascade of public comments on AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile, but at least some of those filings will be ending on Tuesday.

More than 25,000 filings had been submitted as of Friday, with more than 10,000 pouring in since Thursday alone. All formal petitions to block the $39 billion merger are due on Tuesday.

 

As of Friday, 17 such petitions to deny were listed online, but it is unclear how many of those represent formal requests. One petition has the signatures of 2,647 people from around the country.

Free Press communications director Dave Saldana said his group plans to file a formal petition by Tuesday and FCC officials expect more by the deadline. Sprint, the No. 3 wireless provider in the United States, is expected to file a hefty petition.

AT&T and T-Mobile’s owner Deutsche Telekom have until June 10th to respond and then opponents get another crack at it until June 20th. More informal public comments can continue throughout the process.

 

Thousands of the public comments have been channeled through a website set up by the advocacy group Free Press. The site allows users to enter personal information then directly posts the comment to the FCC’s electronic filing system. Users can customize their statement, but most simply post the suggested one-paragraph message:

“AT&T's takeover of T-Mobile would stifle choice and innovation in the market, harm consumers, and lead to higher prices and fewer jobs nationwide. Don't let AT&T put our mobile future at risk. Please stand with me and reject such reckless consolidation of the mobile industry.”

Saldana said he is pleased with the number of people who have used the website and said the number of comments indicate significant opposition to the merger.

“AT&T and T-Mobile are trying to convince people that letting one of the most expensive national carriers devour one of the least expensive will somehow be good for customers, but the number of people who have visited our site and written to the FCC to oppose the merger shows that fairy tale just isn’t going to fly,” he said.

 

But not all the public comments have been form letters, nor have they all expressed opposition to the deal. At least nine governors have written the FCC in support of the merger.

“Our state is a sea of small towns and rural communities, with islands of population and commerce in Upstate, Midlands, and Lowcountry,” wrote Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C. “For the vast majority of our residents, this expanded investment in mobile broadband is a game-changer.”  

Other support has come from a range of groups, including the National Medical Association, which concluded that the merger is the “best and fastest way” to bring new wireless technology to more Americans.

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