Thursday, December 1, 2011

AT&T Gets Fired Up About the Report Released by the FCC

On Thursday, December 1 AT&T spoke out about the recent staff report that was released by the Federal Communications Commission about the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. AT&T definitely did not hold back about its feelings that the report was hypocritical and one-sided.

"The document is so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece and not a considered analysis," wrote Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, in a blog post.

The report was released by the FCC on Tuesday, November 29. That was the same day that the FCC announced that AT&T had withdrawn its merger application. AT&T said that it withdrew the application because the FCC had said that the merger was not in the interest of the public and needed to be looked at by an administrative law judge.

The FCC claims that it released all of the data that it had collected concerning the merger for the public’s sake; however, AT&T believes that the release of the information was unfair.

On Thursday AT&T thoroughly articulated its displeasure with the way that things have been handled concerning this whole situation.

"In our view the report raises questions as to whether its authors were predisposed. The report cherry-picks facts to support its views and ignores facts that don't," Cicconi wrote. "Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact. This is clearly not the fair and objective analysis to which any party is entitled, and which we have every right to expect."

There were several issues that were brought up in the FCC report that Cicconi went on to address.

AT&T made the claim that if the company were to acquire T-Mobile it would help improve its 4G LTE network; however, in the report that was released, the FCC said that AT&T will “build out” its 4G whether it acquires T-Mobile or not.

Cicconi countered this writing, “The report apparently assumes a high enough level of competition exists in rural areas to compel billions of dollars in investment. Yet the report elsewhere argues that the level of wireless competition in more populated areas of America is so fragile that the merger must be disallowed. At the very least, these conclusions show a logical inconsistency. T-Mobile has no clear path to LTE," he said.

There has also been a huge debate about whether or not the merger would create or kill jobs. The FCC claims that there will be a large amount of layoffs if the merger were to occur, but Cicconi disagrees.

"This notion—that government spending on broadband deployment creates jobs and economic growth but private investment does not—makes no sense," Cicconi wrote. "Conversely, if the FCC had applied to its own broadband fund the same analysis it used for our merger-related investments, the result would be similar—zero new broadband, zero jobs, zero growth."

Cicconi was also frustrated with the fact that the report from the FCC “barely” made mention of spectrum. "Surely, it is neither fair nor logical for the FCC to trumpet a national spectrum crisis for much of the past year and then draft a report claiming that two major wireless companies face no such constraints despite sworn declarations demonstrating the opposite."

It is clear that AT&T is thoroughly frustrated with the FCC. "We believe that the utter absence of balance is clear and demonstrates that the document lacks all credibility," Cicconi wrote. However, despite these bumps in the road, it seems as though AT&T still wishes to take whatever steps are necessary to move forward with the merger. "We understood the issues such a combination might raise, and we made clear, publicly and privately, our readiness to address those concerns. We are still ready to do so," he said.

As expected, AT&T’s rival, Sprint, seemed to agree with the report from the FCC. The company called the report “a careful, substantive analysis."

"Rather than accept the expert agency's Analysis and Findings, AT&T has chosen to make baseless claims about the FCC's process," said Vonya McCann, Sprint's senior vice president for governmental affairs, in a statement. "Let's not forget that it was AT&T who tried to game the process by requesting to withdraw its merger application in the pre-dawn hours of Thanksgiving. AT&T can't have it both ways: either it wanted to have an application that would be judged on the merits or it didn't. We agree with AT&T on one point however: the public should read the Analysis and Findings on AT&T's proposed takeover."

Sources: The Washington Post - AT&T slams FCC report on T-Mobile merger, sees bias and cherry-picking and PCMag - AT&T Slams FCC Merger Report as One-Sided

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