Washington, D.C. – The Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG), while hardly surprised by yesterday’s announcement that T-Mobile USA, Inc. agreed to be purchased by AT&T, strongly opposes the further consolidation of the wireless industry that will result from such a coupling. RTG’s prediction over two years ago that the mobile wireless industry would devolve into a de facto duopoly after AT&T and Verizon divided up the assets of Alltel is, sadly for Americans, coming true.
Over and over again, RTG and its members have voiced their concerns regarding the negative repercussions that will befall the mobile wireless industry if mergers and acquisitions, especially among the sector’s largest players, continue unabated. “November 4, 2008, the day the FCC approved the Alltel/Verizon merger under Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, was the first day the United States wireless market ceased to be competitive,” stated RTG’s General Counsel, Caressa Bennet. “The market has failed and T-Mobile’s decision to throw in the towel only confirms it.” The Department of Justice and the FCC have approved similar mergers in the past and American consumers should brace themselves for losing yet another marketplace choice in the mobile sector.
Should AT&T and T-Mobile be allowed to merge, especially without divestitures and strict conditions, the U.S. wireless market will for all intents and purposes consist solely of AT&T and Verizon. If the FCC and DOJ approve this proposed transaction, AT&T will control unfathomable amounts of spectrum across the entire country. Both government bodies have stated recently that more spectrum is needed in order to maintain a competitive marketplace. Unfortunately, this merger would consolidate already scarce spectrum before any new airwaves are repurposed and released by the FCC. Furthermore, AT&T, utilizing the same GSM air-interface standard as T-Mobile, would for all practical purposes control all domestic GSM roaming. Without a fail-proof data roaming mandate put in place by the FCC, it is all but impossible for small and rural mobile operators to make any type of competitive offering to American consumers. Nothing about this proposed transaction bodes well for the American public and mobile consumers. As the details of a post-merger AT&T come to light, it will be imperative for our regulatory watchdogs to back consumer rights and competition and not AT&T.
About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG) is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who each serve less than 100,000 subscribers. RTG’s members have joined together to speed delivery of new, efficient and innovative telecommunications technologies to remote and underserved communities. ruraltelecomgroup.org @RTGwireless
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