AT&T is receiving some much-needed support from major organizations in its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA.
In March, AT&T announced its plans to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion. The deal, if approved by both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, would see AT&T become the top U.S. wireless carrier with approximately 130 million subscribers.
According to AT&T, several organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, NAACP, and LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens), this week "urged" the FCC to approve the proposed merger. The carrier said that 15 governors, representing 90 million Americans, have also confirmed their support.
"These groups and elected officials understand the extraordinary benefits of bringing high-speed wireless broadband to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population, or an additional 55 million more people," AT&T said in a statement touting its support. "From the most populated areas to large stretches of rural America, consumers will have access to new and innovative technologies and will benefit from increased network capacity and improved service."
That's a sentiment that the Communications Workers of America have rallied around. CWA President Larry Cohen said before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last month that the merger would "accelerate broadband deployment, benefit consumers, and positively impact workers."
Of course, not everyone sees it the same way.
In a 377-page petition to the FCC, Sprint, which would become the smallest major carrier in the market by a wide margin if the deal is approved, argued that a combined AT&T and T-Mobile USA would create a dangerous competitive landscape that would hurt both consumers and other carriers.
"The Commission faces a stark choice in this proceeding," Sprint wrote in its petition. "It can reject AT&T's bid to take over T-Mobile and extend the last two decades of robust competition in the wireless industry...or the Commission can approve the takeover and let the wireless industry regress inexorably toward a 1980s-style duopoly."
Consumers are also getting in the mix. The FCC's public comment page, allowing consumers to share their opinions on the deal, includes more than 36,700 filings that have been sent to the organization since April 12. Consumers' responses are decidedly mixed.
"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," one person wrote to the FCC. "Don't let AT&T put our mobile future at risk. Please stand with me and reject such reckless consolidation of the mobile industry."
Another comment was more approving of the merger: "I am writing to you today because I strongly believe the proposed T-Mobile/AT&T merger could be tremendously helpful for economic development and business success," a commenter wrote.
Either way, don't look for the FCC and Justice Department to make any rash decisions. Their approval or rejection of the deal might well not come until sometime next year.