More than 70 House Democrats are supporting AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, saying it will help expand access to wireless broadband.
They do not specifically call on the agency to approve the merger, but ask it to factor in the benefit of increased wireless-broadband coverage, particularly in rural areas that would come with combining the nation’s second biggest wireless provider AT&T with No. 4 T-Mobile USA.
“As part of its merger proposal, AT&T has committed to building a next-generation wireless-broadband network that proposes to cover 97 percent of Americans,” they write in a letter to be sent to the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department on Friday afternoon.
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“Such a commitment will require billions of dollars in private investment, capital, and create thousands of jobs, many of which will be good paying union jobs with benefits, which will greatly contribute to our continuing economic recovery.”
The letter was signed by many lawmakers who represent rural districts as well as several Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee. It was organized by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., the ranking member on the panel’s Commerce, Trade, and Manufacturing Subcommittee.
Separately, Pride at Work, an offshoot of the AFL-CIO that promotes gay rights in the workplace, announced its support for the merger following the controversy surrounding the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s support for the deal. The alliance’s president resigned recently after it was revealed that he sent a letter in support of the merger following a donation from AT&T.
Peggy Shorey, executive director of Pride at Work, said her group has received no funding from AT&T and said it supports the merger because of AT&T’s track record on gay-rights issues.
Shorey said the company provides benefits for domestic partners. In addition, AT&T’s wireless workers are unionized and the merger would provide T-Mobile’s workers the chance to join unions. Shorey added that while there may be short-term job losses from the merger, supporters expect long-term gains from the broadband expansion AT&T has committed to make.
The Communications Workers of America, which represents more than 40,000 AT&T wireless workers, has been lobbying congressional Democrats to support the merger.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., was among the lawmakers who signed the letter and cited the potential benefits for workers as one of the reasons why he supports the merger.
Critics of the merger were diasppointed.
“It is unfortunate that proponents of the merger have been able to mislead so many members of Congress,” Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said in a statement. “Nothing is to be gained from this deal except that a major competitor to AT&T will be removed from the market, resulting in higher consumer prices and less innovation.”
This article appears in the June 24, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.