House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, urged federal regulators on Monday to see the benefits in AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, taking a jab at members of Congress who have opposed the deal.
Smith, whose committee reviewed the transaction, wrote to federal regulators on Monday, asking them to keep in mind benefits of the deal including improved cell service, more efficient use of spectrum, and expansion of advance wireless broadband services to 97 percent of Americans.
Smith also questioned how thoroughly the merger’s congressional opponents had analyzed the deal. He was likely alluding to Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who wrote to federal regulators last month to say he wants the deal blocked.
“Recently, you have heard from members of Congress who, based on the limited information provided in congressional hearings, urged you conclude that this merger should be blocked," Smith wrote. "Unfortunately, they provided you with one side of the story. I feel compelled to briefly point out the other side."
He urged regulators to gather “all the relevant facts,” including information that is not public and not available to Congress, and “determine whether the merger is consistent with the law.”
Critics are concerned that prices will rise and competition will take a hit if the $39 billion deal is allowed to move forward. Reviews at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are expected to extend into next year.
Congress plays a key role in leading the public debate around a merger but ultimately has no power to decide whether it is approved.
So far, around 80 Democratic House members and a handful of Republicans have written to regulators extolling the benefits of the merger, with a focus on the expansion of rural broadband.
Meanwhile, senior House Democrats in influential committee positions have voiced concerns about the deal.
This article appears in the August 2, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.